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Pin* pub&fad 




THIS book is, in the main, an essay on the British Press 
and .the postulates of its freedom. Neither in form 
nor in substance is it a history or a handbook. Though 
the whole of it was written before the publication, in 
April, 1938, of the " Report on the British Press " by 
the group for Political and Economic Planning, known 
as " P E P," I have drawn upon that Report in revising 
the manuscript, and gratefully acknowledge my in- 
debtedness to its authors* 

To Mr* Stanley Morison, the well-known authority 
on printing, my thanks are due for much kindness 
and help; as also to Captain R. I. H. Shaw and to 
Sir Roderick Jones. 

None of these is in any way responsible for the 
opinions 1 have expressed, What I have written must 
stand or fall by its own truth or error, 

W. S. 




SURVEY . . . . , 









NEWS-GETTING. ...... 193 








A STUDENT of political history, whose learning experience 
has clarified, said not long ago : " The Press is the central 
problem of modem democracy." At first I wondered 
whether he saw truly. Then I guessed his meaning. In 
his eyes the Press is still the chief means of giving a free 
people some notion of what is going on, the main vehicle 
alike of public information, public opinion and public 
cntkism. He had said " democracy " and had meant 
"freedom," for democracy is the political form of 
freedom. Of all liberties, freedom to know, to speak and 
to criticise stands first. And this freedom is the bugbear 
of tyrants. 

The worth of free citizenship is to-day more widely and 
more loudly denied than it has ever been within living 
memory. Dictatorial systems which muzzle or control 
the Press and do away with freedom of speech and of 
public and private criticism, are claiming for themselves 
a degree of political and social efficiency superior to that 
of democracies. How far is this claim warranted ? Will 
it still be put forward at the end of a term of years com- 
parable with the duration of successful democratic 
systems? No man can say. We do not know what 
degree of lasting success dictatorships have yet attained. 
The one thing they cannot tolerate is the freedom of 
public knowledge that goes to the forming of sound judg- 
ment We know what they tell us. We know, too, that 
not all tHey have told us has been borne out by events. 
So we wait. Meanwhile we think the case against 
democratic freedom not proven. 


They demand a jU^4*^ tffd^^ 
Baldwin alleged that democracies at* always two years 
behind dictatorships, was he not begging the question i& 
his own favour? Successful democracy demands, in 
well-nigh equal measure, the fulfilment of two difficult 
conditions. Of these the one is a loftier and more virile 
sense of individual citizenship than is required, or 
tolerated, by systems which make it the duty of all 
citizens to think alike and to obey orders. The otter Is 
vigilant foresight 00 the part of the representative leaders 
of self-governing communities. 

Of such communities the late President Masaryk finely 
wrote that " self-government is self-control," not a mere 
negation of authority. Dictatorships assume, on thp 
contrary, that " government from above " is a good in 
itself, and control by one man best of all; One leader, 
at the bead of one party, commanding all the resources 
of the " State " ami wielding all its coerdNe powers over 
the Press and over individual lives, is at once their method 
and their ideal. Neither method nor ideal leaves any 
room for a free Press: and a Press unfree can have no 
higher standing, as an institution, than that of a gramo- 
phone industry. 

The democratic ideal, on the other hand, is that free 
citizens shall use their individual rights and liberties to 
serve the common weal How can citizens do this if 
knowledge of what bears upon the cou|mon weal t# 
withheld from them or be given only to an extent ated if 
a form that may suit the purposes of their rulers? 
Unless there be freedom to know, to agree or to disagree, 
there cannot be enlightened support of the men charged 
with the conduct of public affairs. In other words, there 
cannot exist the instructed public opinion which is the 
mainstay of democratic Governments. 

Conversely, the absence of informed criticism or agree- 
ment, and the restriction of publi^ knowledge, Wd to 


breed th^corruption and other forms of inefficiency to 
whk^dktatorkl^tems are peculiarly liable. The same 
lack of public control allows abuses to grow until they 
reach a point at which a community is compelled to 
conspire or to rebel against its rulers, seeing that no other 
means of redress can be found. Thus the end of dictator- 
ship may be chaos and social disaster. From this stand- 
point a free Press, conducted in a spirit of responsible 
citizenship, may be at once the central problem and the 
main safeguard of modern democracy. 

True though it be that the Press is no longer the only 
medium through which information or news reaches the 
public, and that wireless broadcasting plays a growing 
part in the life of communities, the informative and 
educative influence of broadcasting is rather an extension 
than a restriction o'f the functions of the Press. In this 
country, at all events, the " radio " does not collect news 
on its own account. It spreads news gathered by regular 
press agencies; and if it adds comment of its own, or 
comment by speakers of known authority, it does but 
forestall or follow the work of newspapers. Moreover, 
the appeal of verbal broadcasting is to the ear, not to the 
eye. Listeners who may wish to think over what they 
have heard are usually glad to " see it in print " so that 
they can judge it more maturely. And what is the print- 
ing of comment or criticism orally delivered if not an 
extension of the Press ? 

Whether the Press be looked upon as a hydra-headed 
monstef , or as the safeguard of freedom in democratic 
communities, news is its life-blood. Tha outstanding 
function of the Press is to gather, to make known and to 
interpret news of public interest. This is a function socially 
valuable and, uprightly discharged with a sense of re- 
sponsibility, highly honourable* Upon it the safety of 
a community may depend. Since the beginning of life on 
this planet news has played ft vital part in the human and 


even in the animal world The scenting of danger by 
animals is " news "-that their safety is threatened. Why 
have organised communities and their rulers always 
striven to get prompt and trustworthy information upon 
matters that may affect their welfare ? Ambassadors and 
couriers, spies and soothsayers, swift vessels and hard 
riders have all been used to this end, to say nothing of 
telegraph and telephone. The essence of news is to give 
timely warning of what has happened or may happen, 
and the proper circulation of news is a social service 
second to none. 

Of this service journalism, or ** the Press," is still the 
chief instrument. Its form has been determined by the 
art of printing, and changed by the transformation of that 
art into a rapid mechanical process. Only when the in- 
vention of metal types, set in steel* frames, had made 
possible the rapid reproduction of oral or written state- 
ments could the newspaper press be evolved; and not 
until the advent of democratic political institutions and 
the emancipation of the middle class the " third estate " 
could the Press (sometimes called the " fourth estate ") 
begin to flourish. Pamphlets and pamphleteers there had 
been, and gazettes or periodicals mainly devoted to the 
discussion of public affairs. But in this country in- 
dependent daily newspapers of national importance, as 
distinguished from local news-sheets and news-letters, 
are little older than the last quarter of the eighteenth 
century. Even then they were apt to be adjuncts of 
printing establishments. Necessarily the connection^be- 
tween the progress of the printers' craft and the practice of 
news-getting and news distribution has always been dose. 

The growth of the Press, properly so-called, really dates 
from the recognition of news-getting as a legitimate 
private business. Governments naturally sought to 
control or to influence this business either by direct 
censorship or by placing it under fiscal or penal restric- 
tions* Did it not trench upon the fields of statecraft 


and diplbmacy which were carefully-guarded official 
preserves ? Even when the Press had gained freedom, 
responsible journalists felt bound to use discretion in 
publishing news and commenting upon it. They set up 
a tacit censorship of their own* They felt that while 
democratic communities have a right in normal times to 
be informed of all that concerns their welfare, those who 
inform them must act, in a sense, as wardens of the public 
mind. The freedom of the Press, that is to say > the 
absence of arbitrary official restrictions upon the dis- 
semination of news and of comment upon news, is a 
pledge of pubjic safety. It ensures that all sides of a case 
shall be heard before a free community makes up its 
mind. In times of unusual stress, such as war, some 
degree of official control may be indispensable lest false,, 
exaggerated or indiscreet news cause panic and endanger 
the common weal. From this it follows that the measure 
of freedom which the Press is entitled to enjoy is subject 
to the welfare of the community as a whole, and cannot 
be determined solely by the private interests of news- 
papers or their owners. But since ideas may differ upon 
the degree of knowledge that is good for a community, 
the principle has gained recognition that freedom should 
be given the benefit of any doubt there may be and that a 
larger measure of it is better than a smaller. Experience 
has shown that abuses of freedom by irresponsible news- 
papers are best restrained by the certainty that other and 
more responsible newspapers, to say nothing of Parlia- 
mefat, wiU also be free to denounce such abuses. 

This question of responsibility raises the further 
question of the conditions under which newspapers are 
produced and journalists ply their trade ; or, if their trade 
be a craft, what standards of craftsmanship are required 
of them. To-day th& statement is warranted that the 
actual, mechanical production of newspapers is less a 
craft than an industry. Newspaper proprietors, indeed, 


are wont to refer to their "industry." So the public may 
ask what entitles newspaper owners to turn the printing 
and the selling of news which is a social service into 
a private business or industry. What proofs of mental 
capacity or of moral integrity have they to give before 
they are allowed to profit by ministering to public 
curiosity ? If the truthful answer be ** None, except com- 
mercial success, 9 ' serious conclusions may be drawn. If, 
on the other hand, the answer be that newspaper owners 
feel bound to manage their industry with some sense of 
public trusteeship, complicated issues arise. 

No newspaper can long be produced without the help 
of its editorial staff, or journalists. Who and what are 
"journalists"? Though efforts have been and are 
made to train journalists for their work, and " schools of 
journalism " exist, it is broadly true that journalists pass 
no professional examinations, take no special degrees and 
hold no charter. The news they gather and the comment 
they write has to be sold to the public, usually under 
stress of competition. As news-getters and news-sellers, 
journalists may hardly seem entitled to claim a higher 
status than that of any cheapjack whose vociferations 
draw pence from passers-by. Yet the functions they 
actually discharge give them a public standing above 
that pf men whose only aim is to catch the eye or the ear 
of their fellow men. Whence comes this standing ? 

In the last resort I think it comes from instinctive 
public recognition that journalism proper is in the nature 
of a vocation, that it is something more than a craft, 
something other than an industry, something between an 
art and a ministry. Journalists proper are unofficial 
public servants whose purpose is to serve the community. 
Such journalists are born, not m#de. They may need 
training and experience ; yet no degree of training and 
no amount of experience can make journalists of them 
unless they have in them the vital spark that distinguishes 
the journalist proper from the newspaper hand. 


Few things ate mom foolish or, sometimes, more 
tragic than for young men to imagine that, because they 
have done well at school or university and have & knack 
of stringing words and phrases together on paper, they 
will be journalists if they get " a job on the press." It 
may take them years to find out that they have missed 
their calling, the vocation \yithout which newspaper work 
may be for them soujGtess drudgery. They would have 
done better to ply another trade, for they might as well 
have been lawyers or civil servants, bank clerks or stock- 
brokers* Of newspaper men without the vital spark 
there is no lack. Journalists by vocation are rarer* They 
are men and women with minds and standards of judg- 
ment of their own, with an (often unconfessed) zeal for 
the spread of educative knowledge, and with a determina- 
tion to go through the newspaper mill in the hope of 
finding one day a chance to tell the public what they 
believe it ought to know. These journalists are " the 
Press " in the true sense of the term; and if ever the 
** newspaper industry " seeks to dispense with them and 
to look upon itself solely or chiefly as a business for the 
Enrichment of its owners or shareholders, it will be 
doomed as a public institution. 

Yet journalists by vocation are often reminded of the 
gap that divides their ideal from the practical approach 
to it Experience teaches them that their craft may be 
an industry, a business, as well as a liberal profession, 
an art or a ministry; that it may be all these things by 
turns and, at moments, all of them together. They know 
that, as its name implies, journalism consists in gathering, 
printing and publishing news of events, day by day, with 
or without comment or opinion. They know that this 
is responsible work, that news is expected to be true and 
the comment upon it to be honest. But news, when 
printed and published, has to be sold. The newspaper- 
buying public may not like unpleasant news or distasteful 
opinions. The production of newspapers, as an 


prise, and the men who produce them, depend upon 
public favour. How far are they entitled to court public 
favour ? To what extent do they betray their trust if 
they trim their news or their opinions to suit the public 
taste ? Are they more blameworthy if they trim news or 
withhold their full convictions upon it than is a tradesman 
who gives short weight or the manufacturer who 
adulterates his products ? 

In my own view they are. The underlying principle 
that governs, or should govern, the Press is that the 
gathering and selling of news and views is essentially a 
public trust. It is based upon a tacit contract with the 
public that the news shall be true to the best of the 
knowledge and belief of those who offer it for sale, and 
that their comment upon it shall be sincere according to 
their lights. The same kind of trust is implied in the 
relationship between a doctor and his patients, though 
medical men work under the discipline of a professional 
code and are obliged to hold medical degrees, whereas 
journalism is a " free " profession subject only to the 
external restrictions which the law of the land may place 
upon it. But the dishonest doctor can harm, at worst, 
only a few dozen or a few score patients, while a dis- 
honest journalist may poison the minds of hundreds of 
thousands or millions of his fellow men. And the answer 
to the question whether a journalist who sells, or is a 
party to selling, news that he knows to be false or only 
partly true, or who trims opinions so as to make tl^em 
palatable, is more guilty than a tradesman who gives 
short weight or a manufacturer who offers adulterated 
goods, depends upon the further question whether the 
spreading of false statements or false ideas is more 
harmful than the sale of material wares under false 
pretences* If it be held, as I think it should be held, that 
false ideas are more harmful than adulterated sugar or 
soap, the journalist who betrays his trust is more blame- 
worthy than a dishonest tradesman, Journalism, as the 


basis of the "newspaper industry," holds a special 
position because its raw material is really the public 
mind and it trades chiefly in " moral values." 

In a sense the trusteeship 9r moral responsibility of the 
Press is akin to that of ministers of religion, statesmen 
and leaders of public thought. In another sense it is 
subject to industrial and mercantile conditions that do 
not affect these other trustees in the same degree. The 
newspaper industry needs large amounts of capital. 
Day by day it consumes thousands of tons of " news- 
print," that is to say, the more or less white paper on 
which newspapers are printed. ** Newsprint " is made 
of wood pulp into which the trunks of myriad trees, 
usually white spruce, are ground down by powerful 
mills. Most of the dried wood pulp used to make 
** newsprint " in this country is brought from overseas 
by special steamers. Thousands of rills of printer's ink 
flow day after day to the semi-circular metal plates 
which " clothe " the cylinders of the intricate and costly 
machines that print, fold and cut newspapers by scores 
of thousands an hour. Capital is needed to collect news 
from all parts of the world, to pay thfe men who gather 
it and send it, and to cover the cost of transmission ; and 
further capital to pay the salaries and wages of editorial, 
mechanical and business staffs at home. Big premises, 
from which the printed sheets can be swiftly distributed, 
and fleets of motor cars, or even aeroplanes, are wanted 
for the work of distribution. And the revenue from the 
actual sale of newspapers may cover scarcely one-half of 
the cost of producing them. The other half, and what- 
ever profit may be made, have to be drawn from 
advertisers who, as they provide the major proportion 
of newspaper revenue, may wish to have their say in the 
choice of the news to be printed or of the comment upon it. 

Advertising, or the sale of publicity, fends increasingly 
to influence " the Press," By it newspapers live ; and 


Hie necessity of getting and ketpii% it affect* both die 
newspaper industry and journalism proper in more ways 
than one. The price of the publicity a newspaper can 
sell depends largely upon the number, though partly also 
upon the quality and purchasing-power, of its readers. 
If, in the conscientious exercise of a moral trusteeship for 
the public, the editorial staff of a newspaper offend 
readers and lose circulation, the business managers or 
the proprietors of the newspaper will soon have a bone 
to pick with them. Only a high-minded or far-sighted 
newspaper owner is willing to risk loss of circulation, 
and therefore of advertising revenue, by supporting what 
may be " unpopular " causes or by insisting upon distaste- 
ful truths. Far-sighted or resolute owners have faced 
and may still be ready to face this risk because they are 
convinced that their judgment, or that of their editorial 
staffs, is not only right but will be proved right in the 
long run and that public confidence will then return to 
them in larger measure than before. Yet, as a rule, 
journalists are not allowed to forget that ** the Press," 
which they may regard as a trusteeship, cannot be 
altogether independent of the counting-house. 

In spite of this " the Press ' * remains something more 
than a device for selling publicity to tradesmen or 
manufacturers. It is a sort of co-operative society in 
which the public is a partner. If, in the last resort, its 
power resides in the appeal of journalism to the public 
mind, the owners, editors or managers of newspapers 
would be foolish indeed to imagine thai the public mind 
is passive, ready to yield to any kind of treatment* News- 
papers can and do act upon public opinion ; but public 
opinion acts quite ss powerfully upon them. For this 
reason, among others, the Press is always tempted to give 
the public " what the public wants " ; tad journalists who 
can guess what the public really " wants " are worth 
their weight in gold. Some of them, together with the 
owners of the papers they serve, may think the average 

Of public taste so low that the lower their appeal to it 
the more successful will they be. These have their 
reward. Their method is to " play down M to the public. 
Other editors and owners who think it their duty to 
enlighten and to educate their readers, may have too 
lofty an idea of what the public wants. They will have 
reason to learn that while the public likes to be amused 
or interested, it dislikes schoolmastering of any kind. 
And a third class of newspaper proprietors and journalists 
think that the right method is to humour the public to a 
-certain extent by trying to give it what is good for it in 
so attractive a form that it will like what it gets- These 
are the wisest. 

What does the public really want ? It does not want 
and, sooner or later, ceases to buy or to read dull news- 
papers. Hence the first commandment of the journalistic 
decalogue : " Thou shalt not be dull." True though it be 
that a certain class of staid newspaper readers abhor 
" sensationalism " and enjoy nothing so much as the 
assurance that everything is well in the best of all possible 
worlds, they are not the class upon whom enterprising 
newspapers can rely for circulation or whose preferences 
determine "public opinion.'! One fundamental fact 
which journals and journalists who cater for the taste of 
this class often forget is that the main function of a news- 
paper is to give "news," and that to miss or to be 
behindhand with " the news 'Ms a cardinal journalistic 
sin, " News " may be defined as something exceptional, 
something out of the ordinary run. When only the 
expected happens people are prone to say : " There is no 
news." The cynical phrase of a famous newspaper 
ownpr : '* Vice is news and virtue isn't," assumed that 
virtue is ordinary, vice extraordinary. Its cynicism lay 
in the circumstance that stories of vice have a fascination 
even foe virtuous minds and that " to make the most of 
them " is a species of speculative immorality which is 
itself vicious. 


This matter of " news " is really important. Behind 
it lies not only the question of giving the public " what 
it wants," but the far weightier question of telling the 
public the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the 
truth as nearly as the truth can be ascertained and told. 
It may be as blameworthy for some newspapers to water 
down or hide the truth as it is for others to blazon it 
forth with startling headlines or comment. Very steady 
and robust journalistic minds are needed to strike and 
to hold a proper balance between what is essential in the 
public interest and what is meretricious pandering to the 
lower popular tastes. The best journalists are those who 
can strike and hold this balance, but who incline always 
to give the public more news rather than less. " All the 
news that's fit to print " is the sage motto of the greatest 
American journal, the New York Times, and it is the 
faculty of sure discernment between news which is fit 
and news which is not fit to print that distinguishes 
healthy from unhealthy newspaper enterprise. 

Yet even healthy news needs to be given in an attrac- 
tive form. Some years ago I was invited to address a 
gathering of earnest men and women upon the part the 
Press might play in fostering international peace. This 
meeting was held towards the close of a conference 
organised under high ecclesiastical auspices; and the 
organisers were depressed by the sad fact that hardly a 
word of the proceedings had been reported in any news- 
paper. The reason was plain. An atmosphere of pious 
dullness prevailed. The audience seemecl prayerfully 
disconsolate. I was presented to them by a devout 
chairman who said that they were about to have the 
privilege of listening to *' a journalist with ideals.'* In 
a sanctimonious tone he added: "A journalist with 
ideals is an unspeakable blessing, but a journalist without 
ideals is satanic." 

The audience applauded fervently. So I began by 


saying that I agreed with one word the Chairman had 
used, the word ** unspeakable " ; for a journalist with 
ideals who should parade them round a newspaper office 
at night, when news was rolling in by the yard and the 
printers were gasping for space, would be an unspeakable 

Before my hearers had recovered from the shock of 
this brutal beginning, I went on to tell them that if none 
of their meetings had been reported in the Press it was 
because those who had taken part in them had fallen 
into the sin of dullness. I bade them remember that, in 
order to enlist the support of the Press for their noble 
cause, they must do or say something which would be 
worth reporting something new, profound, striking or 
original. I reminded them that they had been talking 
against war which is a very dangerous, full-blooded 
and interesting affair and had utterly failed to show 
that peace could be equally dangerous, full-blooded and 
interesting. I said they were really competing for space 
in newspapers against the pressure of advertisements of 
which some might be worth several pounds per inch of 
type; and I asked them seriously to reflect whether any- 
thing that had been said at any of their meetings was 
honestly worth several pounds an inch.. 

Despite, or because of, this effrontery, the audience 
listened attentively to what I had to say. A lively dis- 
cussion followed. At the end I heard a pious lady 
remark to a Right Reverend Bishop: " It is all very 
shocking, but it is the only interesting meeting we have 
had.* The newspapers reported it fully next day. 

Rough though my tongue may have been, it spoke 
the truth. Many journalists are impenitent idealists. 
They need to be. The conditions of their work are often 
hard, their task is never finished. They are not, as a rule, 
commercially-minded, however large are the business 
profits which others extract from their efforts. Hie scent 
of printer's ink m^y be more grateful to their nostrils 


than rare perfume, and the sight of the printed slips of 
paper, calted ^irils " or w galley proofs,** suffice to 
make them forget that they themselves pull like galley 
slaves. By association with each other they may seek 
to lessen their hours of work and to add some security of 
tenure to positions woefully insecure. They may wake 
up one day to find that they have been sold like a flock 
of sheep by one newspaper owner to another, and that 
the new owner proposes to " cut down costs " by dis- 
missing men who have served the paper for years and 
might not find it easy to adapt themselves to another 
paper even could they be sure that it would employ them. 
These are some of the drawbacks of life " on the Press.*' 
They are the risks of the trade, and not all of them can be 
removed or seriously diminished without the greater 
risk of destroying the spirit of adventure which is as the 
breath of life to a good journalist and to a good news- 
paper. " The Press " cannot be a free profession and a 
sheltered industry at one and the same time. Journalists 
cannot be as secure in their " jobs " as civil servants are, 
and still enjoy freedom to think and to write as their 
consciences or their ideals may move them to do in the 
public interest. They have to take the rough with the 
smooth, and often to take their professional lives in their 
hands. Not otherwise can they truly serve the public. 

If this be the case of working journalists, what of the 
men who employ them, the newspaper owners, the 
** captains " of the ** newspaper industry " ? I am in- 
clined to believe that, like journalists proper, good 
newspaper owners are born, not made* The greatest of 
them have undeniably been men of genius. John 
Walter Hot The Times, Joseph Pufiteer of the New York 
World, Adolph Ochs of the New York Times, the first 
Lord Burnham of the Dally Telegraph, and Lord 
Northcliffe of the Daily Mail and (for some fifteen years) 
of The Times, were all in their several wys men 


endowed with the peculiar talents required for the work- 
er what Northclififc would call, onsunny days, " thecrime ** 
of " committing newspapers.** Of living owners it 
would be invidious to speak. It may safely be affirmed 
that not all of them are, though some may be, similarly 
endowed. But all of them have now to deal with con- 
ditions which, whether they like it or not, expose the 
** freedom of the Press," and therefore the Press itself, 
to very subtle dangers. 

Chief among these is the danger that the public may 
lose confidence in the Press as a free institution. The 
recent rise of personal " news-letters " giving or pur- 
porting to give information which daily journals with- 
hold or ignore, is a sign of dwindling public confidence in 
the Press. If the plight of London is not yet as extreme 
as that of New York where the number of responsible 
morning newspapers has now been reduced to two by 
failures and amalgamations the same forces seem to 
be at work in Great Britain as in America. These 
forces tend to restrict the channels of public information. 
It stands to reason that when the public of a great city 
has a choice between only two " organs of opinion " it 
is unlikely to be supplied with the same variety and 
fullness of news and of comment as when five or six 
independent journals are competing for its favour. In 
this way one aspect of public freedom is curtailed. Nor 
is it a matter of indifference that an old-established 
journal should cease publication or be " absorbed " by 
another journal financially stronger or backed by a 
powerful and wealthy "newspaper combine,*' as the 
Morning Post was absorbed not long ago by the Daffy 
Telegraph. Not only does a vehicle of public opinion 
disappear a quality of opinion that may Hot find other 
means of expression but the shares of the absorbing 
journal or ** newspaper combine " may be held by in- 
vestors whose chief concern with " the Press " is the size 
of tile dividends payable upon their capital. Here the 


weightiest problem of a ** free Press " crops up again : 
How to ensure a fair balance between the commercial 
independence that is indispensable to an unfettered press, 
and the business interests that tend to encroach upon 
journalistic freedom ? 

This problem is the harder to solve because of the 
costliness of modern newspaper production. More than 
a generation ago the late Lord Rosebery drew attention 
to this side of what was not then but now is called the 
** newspaper industry.*' He pointed out that while, in 
theory, anybody can start a journal in competition with 
existing newspapers, the amount of capital needed for a 
new venture is so large as to make the risk of failure 
almost prohibitive. The owners of existing newspapers, 
he claimed, held an effective monopoly in the ** organs 
of public opinion " a state of things that might be 
harmful to the community unless newspaper owners 
were themselves more public-spirited and more keenly 
alive to their responsibility for public welfare than is 
usually the case with business men. 

The question which Lord Rosebery thus raised has not 
become less acute since he spoke. The ownership of 
newspapers has been concentrated in fewer hands 
without necessarily rendering the surviving papers more 
independent. While, in several instances, circulations 
have vastly increased, the fact remains that the greatest 
influence is not always wielded by the most widely-read 
newspapers. Large circulations may be built up upon 
a varied range of readers for whose differing tastes news- 
paper owners and editors feel bound to cater. Anxious 
not to lose subscribers, they are tempted to be neutral 
and colourless, to "hedge" on crucial issues, and to 
avoid dullness by giving prominence to incidents or 
episodes that have little general significance. Journals 
with smaller circulations but with firm and enlightened 
policies can and do influence the intelligent minority of 
the public whose opinions sway those of the unthinking 


majority. But some of these journals have a hard fight 
for life ; and their continued existence does not altogether 
solve the problem which faces a free community, most of 
whose organs of public information and opinion are 
controlled by a few wealthy newspaper companies. 

As matters stand to-day the goodness or the badness 
of newspaper influence turns more than ever upon the 
characters of the men who own or control " the Press." 
If they are men of strong public spirit they can be of 
great service to the community. If they are mere money- 
makers or, still worse, petulant and self-opinionated 
dictators, they can work much mischief. If they are 
journalists proper themselves, as the best of them have 
been and are, they have a lively sense of the dimensions 
in which they move, and seek rather to educate than to 
dictate. Laying no claim to personal infallibility, they 
respect public opinion and guide it even as they express it. 
They know that their enterprise is a " commercial pro- 
position " ; but they know, too, that some of its terms are 
non-commercial and may, on a short view, even seem anti- 
commercial. Enlightened newspaper owners have, to 
my knowledge, deliberately thrown away advertisement 
revenue in order to teach domineering advertisers a lesson 
and to warn editorial staffs against subservience to solely 
fc * business " considerations. On the other hand, pro- 
fessedly high-minded and independent journals have 
also been controlled by men who bowed humbly to the 
dictates of large advertisers and insisted that editorial 
policy should be so shaped as to curry favour with them. 
Such cases of conscience, or lack of conscience, lie 
beyond the ken of readers. 

To upright newspaper owners and journalists the 
problem of a free Press presents itself as a constant search 
for a fair balance between public service and economic 
independence; and in this* search the technique of 
publicity needs to be closely studied. Both the editorial 


and the advertisement staffs of newspapers have to Judge 
what position*** a printed page will attract most atten- 
tion, whither the reader's eye is likely to turp, where the 
most striking news should be placed* what variety of type 
should be used for headlines and text, and what for 
comment The upper half of a page, " above the fold," 
is carefully reserved for important items, since readers 
are wont to cast their eyes upward, and usually towards 
the right. This is why the right-hand top corner of the 
outside page of a newspaper is the most valuable for 
advertising purposes. It is true that some newspapers 
place the chief news of the day at the top of the left- 
hand columns of a page, knowing that their readers are 
accustomed to look for it there. But adroit newspaper 
men often vary their paper's " make-up " so as to convey 
an impression of alertness and to avoid M sameness." 
Valuable news may be ** smothered " if there is no variety 
in its presentation ; and readers in a hurry dislike " digging 
out" news for themselves instead of having their 
attention drawn to it by suitable typographical devices. 
Within these limits the struggle for circulation and for 
advertisement revenue dominates the form and the style 
of nearly every newspaper. It is a struggle that may go 
to unseemly lengths unless it be kept within bounds by 
newspapers owners and by journalists themselves. 
Generally speaking, the public cares little about the 
methods by which it is supplied with news and views. 
It cares much for getting news and views promptly, and 
it is likely to forsake newspapers which miss or are late 
with the news, or which persist in expressing opinions 
that run counter to public feeling. It is a hard thing for 
a newspaper to be better than the public which reads it 
* * * * 

The standing and the influence of the Press can also be 
damaged, as they have been damaged in recent years, by 
attempts to get big circulations in ways that have nothing 
to do with journalism proper by offering insurance 


benefits to readers, by newspaper competitions and othei; 
tricks designed to secure an increase in nominal circula- 
tion as a lever for extracting higher rates from advertisers. 
Apart from their unworthiness as journalism these tricks 
may defraud advertisers by inducing people to WWC&e 
"registered readers" of newspapers merely for the 
insurance benefits offered, or to buy several copies of a 
paper for the sake of its competition coupons, not for 
the purpose of reading a single copy. In such cases 
advertisers pay for a degree of publicity they dd not 
actually receive. 

Other discreditable means of attracting attention to a 
newspaper are known as " stunts.'* A " stunt " is an 
effort to palm off on the public as something original 
or important, a sensation that exists only in the imagina- 
tion of its authors. It is a perversion of the spirit of 
healthy newspaper enterprise. Every journalist knows 
the value of " exclusive " news. A paper which " gets 
the news " more quickly or more fully than its rivals 
soon sees its circulation figures go up. People talk about 
it. Readers of other newspapers feel humiliated and 
tend to buy the successful paper. Hence the eagerness of 
well-conducted newspapers, and the heavy outlay they 
incur, to get original news of important events. Nowa- 
days the stream of news that flows automatically into 
newspaper offices through the news agencies is so great 
that most newspapers have on hand, night after night, 
twice or thrice as much " copy " as they would need to 
fill their columns. The initial task of editorial staffs thus 
becomes one of selection and compression so as to .leave 
room for more original matter. If newspapers were to 
confine themselves to the material which news agencies 
supply to all of them, there would be little reason why 
the public should prefer one journal to another. 

In its news, no less than in its views, a successful papef 
must, therefore, bear the stamp of Originality. Much 
has been said and written against the modem journalistic 


tendency to be original at all costs, to move heaven and 
earth for the sake of what used to be called a " beat " 
and is now known as a 4fc scoop/' But this tendency 
springs from a healthy instinct the instinct that a paper 
which is frequently ahead of its rivals will impress the 
public as being better organised and more competent 
than they, and on that account better worth reading 
The result is a legitimate increase in circulation and, 
eventually, the growth of advertisement revenue. These 
things are not merely incidental, they are essential to the 
freedom of the Press. And this is why " stunts " or 
bogus k scoops " are both immoral m themselves and a 
sin against the spirit of journalism 

Hardly less harmful to good journalism are, on the 
other hand, those newspapers which push their dislike 
of" stunts " and sensationalism to the point of imagin- 
ing that their readers will be relieved to find that there is 
nothing to worry about. These newspapers deliberately 
tone down the news and treat even remarkable occur- 
rences as though they were not of unusual importance. 
They seem to cater for a small class of elderly and 
" highly respectable " persons who read one staid news- 
paper all their lives and trust it because it rarely upsets 
their minds. The readers of such newspapers die off in 
time and leave few or none to replace them. Then come^ 
the distressing moment when the circulation of staid 
organs begins to sag and nothing is harder in the whole 
range of newspaper enterprise than to lea waken public 
interest in a journal whose circulation has seriously 
declined. It is not merely that a new public cannot easil> 
be reached ; it is that the " rot " among readers has been 
accompanied by another kind of " rot " among the staffs 
which bring out those newspapers. They had forgotten 
that time was working against them. They had got into 
the habit of looking upon their journals as intrinsically 
" superior " to other journals and, unconsciously, upon 


themselves as " superior journalists." They had ignored 
the unpleasant truth that the best newspapers cease to be 
the best if they miss or are late with the news, waste space 
in their " make-up " and are ponderously "judgmatic " 
or evasive in their views instead of giving a clear, firm 
lead to their readers. When a newspaper staff has fallen 
into habits of this kind, something like an earthquake 
may be needed to rouse it from lethargy. 

A famous newspaper owner who had come to the 
rescue of an old-established journal which was suffering 
from a k4 superiority complex "' among its staff and from 
mortality among its elder readers used to urge its 
editorial staff to study daily the death announcements on 
its front page. He pointed out that a high proportion of 
the departed were probably subscribers who had 
" taken in " that journal all their lives; and he asked the 
staff to consider whether they were doing anything to 
make sure that new subscribers would replace those who 
wore gone. 

hi newspaper enterprise, as elsewhere, life goes to life. 
Constant renovation must counteract crystallisation and 
decay. As an exercise in public psychology, journalism 
always calls for fresh ideas and new blood. Some elderly 
men lose touch with youth and cannot see that what 
interested them in bygone years no longer interests 
younger people in the same way. With rare exceptions, 
such men are unwilling to venture on untrodden paths. 
They may form a valuable element and a steadying in- 
fluence in the life of a newspaper, yet be unable to give it 
new life. It is not a question of putting new wine into 
old bottles but of mixing judiciously new wine with old ; 
and this is an operation which youth alone is hardly 
competent to perform. Older men with fresh, unblunted 
minds must do it ; and these men are the salt of the Press. 
They combine experience with ardour and help to keep 
newspapers sanely " alive." 

Alertness on the part of their staffs is not only essential 


to the production of good newspapers but is needed to 
detect changes in the habits and moods of the public. 
With the advent of the cinematograph a revolution began 
in the journalistic world. Newspapers were obliged to 
print" 14 pictures," and to cut down the space reserved for 
letterpress, in order to meet the public demand for illus- 
trations. It was discovered that women, in particular, 
preferred " pictures " to verbal statements, and either 
subscribed to " picture papers " or kept the " picture 
pages " of more serious journals in their homes. 
Advertisers were quick to perceive this and to understand, 
inasmuch as women are the principal buyers of goods 
for domestic purposes, that papers with illustrations were 
the most effective media of publicity. Not even the 
staidest journals could long withstand the joint pressure 
of women and advertisement agents. 

When the public grew accustomed to, and presently 
came to desire, impressions that could be received 
through the eye without mental effort, its power of fol- 
lowing discussions on public affairs began to wane. As 
long as the " silent films " prevailed in the cinemas, this 
atrophy of public intelligence was especially noticeable. 
A corrective then appeared in the form of " talking 
films," and yet another corrective in wireless broad- 
casting which, in its " news " and " talks," appeals 
directly to the intelligence of listeners. The announce- 
ment of news by wireless, and of views in the form of 
"talks" by acknowledged authorities, began a new phase 
in the daily education of the public. It is still an open 
question whether television will not, in its turn, act upon 
the public mind in the same way as the silent films acted 
upon it. But television should enable people to see what 
is actually taking place and to be spectators .of real 
events. Thus it may exercise their powers of direct 
observation and strengthen rather than weaken their 
perceptive and reasoning faculties. If so, it will be a gain, 
both to the public and to the Press. 


All these changing conditions of publicity bear upon 
the future of democratic systems of government, and 
therefore of the future of the Press. I have said that 
representative democratic systems are hard to work and 
harder to keep efficient since they demand a fuller and a 
loftier sense of citizenship than is required or can be 
tolerated by dictatorial or absolute systems. But the 
exercise of responsible citizenship postulates both a 
critical faculty and sustained attention to public reason- 
ing upon public affairs. Would a public that no longer 
reads full reports of speeches, leading articles or careful 
statements of fact, and prefers to '* trust its own eyes," 
be able to exercise responsible citizenship ? Is not the 
impact of events upon individual minds to-day so much 
swifter and more varied than it was even a generation 
ago that the result may be bewilderment and loss of hold 
upon essential principles ? I say " may be," not " will 
be/' Human minds are remarkably adaptable. They 
may acquire the power of more rapid co-ordination in 
response to the increase in the pace and the variety of the 
impressions they receive. In this case the forms in which 
thought is expressed might change without detriment 
to the thought itself. 

One cannot tell. Certain it is that the British public 
has never quite regained the power of sustained attention 
which it possessed in pre-War years. During the War, 
when the public mind underwent long periods of strain, 
newspaper readers lost patience with any statement or 
piece of writing that they could not take in at a glance. 
They were elated one day, downcast the next, half- 
reassured the day after, and then again hopeful or 
dejected. A student of the British Press from, say, 1916 
to 1922 would be struck by the gradual shortening of 
newspaper and review articles, and by the substitution 
of notes or brief paragraphs for the longer disquisitions 
of earlier years* While this process of abbreviation or 
compression may have been due in part to the rising cost 


of the paper on which newspapers were printed, and to 
the consequent reduction in the size of newspapers 
themselves, it was chiefly a result of a weakened power 
of attention among the reading public. The late Lord 
Northcliffe, who was gifted with an uncanny sense of 
the ordinary citizen's state of mind, gave orders in 1917 
that no articles in his Daily Mail should exceed three 
hundred words in length; and he set the example by 
writing a large number of condensed and pithy articles 
himself. Success in writing them was more than a 
knack ; it was the result of severe condensation, that is 
to say, of sustained mental effort on the part of their 
writers. However easy it may be to put pen to paper 
and to spin out phrases, it is far less easy to put into 
three hundred words what used to be said in one thousand 
or more. 

To this extent the shortening of newspaper articles was 
by no means harmful. But in so far as the shortened 
articles were merely "jerky," they responded to an 
almost pathological condition of the public mind. 
Mental " jerks " are not education ; and there are no 
short cuts to soundness of public judgment. Sometimes 
1 wonder whether the establishment of dictatorial 
systems in various European countries was not, in some 
degree, due to the readiness of their peoples to accept 
words of command, or " slogans " loudly shouted, 
because they had lost the power of sustained attention 
and felt incapable of thinking things out for themselves. 
Hence, perhaps, the disjointedness of their ideas. And, 
whatever its cause or causes, the fact is incontestable 
that this disjointedness has affected also the people of 
free countries who have loosened their grasp upon 
political and social principles which their forefathers 
would not have allowed to be challenged. In this respect, 
too, the Press has been a mirror of the public mind. It 
has, with few exceptions, given currency to illiberal 
notions, and closed its eyes to the suppression of freedom 


abroad without reflecting that if liberal institutions 
should be undermined in this country there could no 
longer be any freedom of the Press or any Press worthy 
of the name. If there be a relationship of cause and effect 
between the pace and disjointedness of life to-day and the 
failure of the Press to insist upon the things that belong 
to public freedom, modern newspapers may have 
attained at too heavy a cost the dizzy speed at which 
they are produced. 

Sixty years ago editors and other journalists had time 
to think. Morning newspapers were turned out in 
leisurely fashion. The late afternoon, the evening and 
the greater part of the night were available for the pre- 
paration of one edition. Telegrams were comparatively 
few, telephone messages unknown, and news agencies in 
their infancy. Circulations were counted by tens or, 
at most, by twenties where they are now counted by 
hundreds of thousands. Some papers with a nation- 
wide circulation " went to press " as late as five or 
six a.m. I know of a newspaper office in which editorial 
writers were requested, in those days, " not to write after 
2.45 a.m." Their " copy " was then sent to the printing 
room, set up by hand and corrected and re-corrected in 
proof. When the last proof had been passed, and the 
presses had begun to rumble, the editor and his staff 
went home, often in broad daylight. 

These conditions are now radically altered. Morning 
newspapers have to be planned, at latest, in the early 
afternoon of the day before they appear. Those with 
large circulations are obliged to print a first edition for 
the provinces by nine or ten p.m., and those with smaller 
circulations not later than midnight. More pages have 
to, be filled, though the wherewithal to fill them may not 
come in before seven or eight p.m. Then work that 
used to be spread over eight or nine hours has to be 
crammed into two or three. The typewriter supersedes 


the pen. Reports from outside are often dictated by 
telephone to typists (who use an abbreviated script), 
sub-edited, passed on to the printers by pneumatic tube, 
and set up in type by typesetting machines. The work 
of revision, and of adjustment of " metal " to space, is 
done at equally high pressure. Even at the cost of in- 
accuracies the paper must " go to press " at a given 
moment. The slightest delay may mean the missing of 
trains, and the loss of readers who will buy another paper 
if their " own " paper is not punctual. 

There is no severer strain in the bringing out of a news- 
paper under such conditions than that of adjusting 
v< metal," or matter in type, to space. " Pressure on 
space " which many would-be contributors to news- 
papers are prone to think an editorial fiction is a reality 
and, at times, a terrific reality. When the printer in 
charge informs his editor, an hour or two before " going 
to press," that the matter set up for such-and-such a 
page is two or three columns ** over/' it may not be hard 
to decide what reports or pieces of descriptive writing 
shall be left out or cut down. But when a carefully- 
considered leading article or other editorial pronounce- 
ment is found to be three or four inches too long, five 
minutes before the paper " goes to press," the strain of 
cutting the article to the proper length, without involving 
a serious break in the argument or the re-setting of type, 
may be fierce indeed. A practised editorial eye, able to 
" take in " the whole of a colui in at a glance, is often 
needed to see just where a passage can be neatly cut, the 
metal type lifted out, and the remaining type adjusted so 
as to fit exactly into the steel frame of a page. Stout 
nerves and years of training are not always proof against 
effort of this intensity ; and the men who have made the 
effort are apt to smile when a leisurely critic writes next 
day to complain of imperfections in an article which has 
had thus to be curtailed. 

Doubtless the quality of editorial writing has suffered 


from the pace of the modern Press. The margin of time 
for the consideration of important news has been 
narrowed. Telephonic transmission is instantaneous 
and the chief towns and cities of the world are now linked 
by telephone. The factor of time-distance is almost 
eliminated. Within a few minutes tidings of a significant 
event may reach almost any part of the civilised globe. 
From one centre the news passes forthwith to other 
centres and flows into every well-equipped newspaper 
office. The men who handle this stream of news must 
grasp its meaning rapidly and prepare it for publication 
with the help of information bearing upon it that has 
been stored, tabulated and indexed in the * fc Intelligence 
Departments " of their papers. The speed of modern 
newspaper production would seem like a nightmare to the 
journalists of older generations. 

In these circumstances there may be little time for 
reflection. To postpone comment and comment may 
be implied by the form in which news is presented or by 
the headlines which announce it is not always wise. 
The public expects comment upon the news of the day ; 
and, on the morrow, the situation may have taken another 
turn. If the comment be " editorial " and given in the 
form of a leading article, it has to be written or dictated 
without a moment's delay. Thus breathlessness breeds 
breathlessness until the daily creation of a tolerably 
coherent journal becomes a daily miracle. 

If machinery alone could work this miracle the 
achievement would be remarkable enough. The costly 
and intricate machines which turn out millions of copies 
of newspapers in a few hours are marvels of ingenuity, 
but they require for their service human minds which 
cannot with impunity be less efficient than they. And 
it is here that the pace of newspaper production begins 
to tell. Unless editorial staifs, and especially the more 
responsible members of those staffs, are men of wide 
knowledge, swift understanding and mature judgment 


they will fail to impart to modern newspapers anything 
like the educative value which the better newspapers of 
the past possessed. " In a sudden emergency, say 
nothing; or, if something must be said, write platitudes," 
seems now to be the watchword of more than one 
journal. Yet prompt, terse comment by keen minds 
aware of public necessities may be of high public value. 
The kind of journalist who waits for official guidance 
before making up his own mind or who, having ascer- 
tained that this or that official decision will be taken, 
hastens to recommend it editorially so that his paper 
may " get credit " for having suggested it, is a very sorry 
guardian of a nation's conscience. Not thus can the 
Press maintain its power. 

Where, in truth, does " the power of the Press " really 
lie ? In what does it consist ? Less than twenty years 
ago I heard a man who had begun his connection with 
the Press as a foreman printer, and had ended it by 
entering Parliament after selling for a large sum his 
shares in a popular newspaper, roundly declare that 
" the power of the Press " is a myth. " When I was in 
Fleet Street," he went on, " I used to have articles written 
to say that ' Balfour must go,' or 'Asquith must go/ or 
* Grey must go.' None of them ever went. So 1 know 
that the Press is powerless. And now I am in Parliament 
I find that Ministers and politicians live in daily fear of 
the Press ! They can't understand that its 4 power * is 
all moonshine." 

This wiseacre had in his time helped to turn " the 
Press " into an " industry." Financial success led him 
to think it an industry like any other. In this belief he 
" went into " business of another sort and burned his 
fingers. So, it would seem, " business " is one thing and 
" the Press " another. A hint of the difference was 
given in October, 1937, by the Managing Editor of a 
London journal, who observed that while there is " a 


very definite limit to the power of a newspaper, however 
big its circulation, to impose its opinions on its readers/* 
it is at the same time " a sobering thought that, in these 
days, the various outpourings of the Press constitute by 
far the most important reading of the nation." He 
recognised, in effect, that the Press trades in moral 
values and owes its power to them, even when it seeks 
to make profit by exploiting them. 

This is the point at which the newspaper " industry " 
still leaves some scope for the idealism with which most 
journalists take up their work and which many of them, 
despite drawbacks and disappointments, persistently 
cling to. Limited by mechanical and financial necessities 
though the field for their individual action may be, the 
broad fact remains that the huge superstructure of their 
" industry " rests m the last resort upon their skill and 
brains. The position of working journalists is often 
anomalous. Men with University degrees may be paid 
less than compositors who merely tap the keyboards of 
typesetting machines. The highest rewards given to 
editors and to their principal assistants are usually lower 
than those of business manage , s and successful canvassers 
for advertisements. Yet, wahout competent editorial 
staffs, the managerial and mechanical sides of newspapers 
would fall to the ground. If newspapers could be made 
without journalists, the " industry " might rejoice. They 
cannot be. The journalist proper knows that he is at 
once the foundation and the motive power of the whole 

fc< business." 

. . 

Some awkward questions nevertheless remain to be 
asked and answered. Does an industrialised Press leave 
journalists much chance to work as most of them would 
wish to work ? Can they, in serving a public unwilling 
to heed principles or ideas as distinguished from the 
episodical or the pictorial aspects of life find scope for 
their idealism ? As things are, is not the temptation or, 

B 2 


perhaps, the proprietorial pressure upon them to serve up 
stuff that will " sell the paper " too strong to be with- 
stood ? When the biggest circulations and the largest 
incomes from advertisements go to journals of small 
educational value, can journalists decline to follow the 
line of least resistance ? Not all of them are moral 
heroes; may they not be decent fellows without 
quarrelling with their bread and butter ? 

In his Uncelestial City Mr. Humbert Wolfe puts into 
the mouth of one of his characters these satirical lines : 

You cannot hope 

to bribe or twist, 
thank God ! the 

British journalist. 

But, seeing what 

the man will do 
unbribed, there's 

no occasion to. 

The bite of this satire is undeniable. Many a foreign 
Government would be prepared to pay large sums for the 
support it gets gratis from incorruptible British 
journalists. But any man who has worked " on the 
Press " will be chary of echoing Mr. Wolfe's stricture 
upon " the British journalist." Granted that many 
popular papers and some others " play up " to 
advertisers, and think rather of amusing than of educating 
their readers, it is none the less true that most working 
journalists hi this country would gladly take the higher 
rather than the lower path. Can this be said with the 
same confidence of the majority of newspaper pro- 
prietors? Does not their record in the past thirty or 
forty years lend some point to the shaft which another of 
Mr. Humbert Wolfe's characters aims at them. Descant- 
ing upon the ethics of newspaper production, this 
character remarks: 

" And then consider, John, if we determine 
to take this line, at the end of our careers 


we might assume hereditary ermine 

and hide our heads among a crowd of peers, 
saying : 

4 The House of Lords 

are waiting for 
the newspaper 

Soap I Attention ! 

Listen ! Beer ! 
" Glory to the 

new-made peer.' 1 

Hark ! the Heralds 1 

College sings, 
as it fakes his 

quarterings.' " 

It may be asked if there is any sound reason why men 
who make fortunes out of newspapers should not be 
" raised to the peerage " in the same way as wealthy 
brewers have been raised to what Henry Labouchere 
used to call " the beerage." The best answer is once 
more to consider whether there is or is not an essential 
difference between the brewing and selling of beer and 
the printing and selling of news and views. I think there 
is a difference, and that in this difference resides the 
distinction between the power of " the Trade " and the 
power of " the Press." However estimable may be the 
public service rendered by brewers who supply " pure 
beer " to the thirsty, and however justly " the stake in 
the country " which they thus acquire may enable them 
by means of public munificence or private contri- 
butions to party funds to enter the House of Lords, 
they do not hold quite the same sort of trusteeship for 
the health of the public mind as that which is claimed for 
the Press. Nor can the trusteeship of the Press be faith- 
fully discharged save in freedom from all obligations 
except the duty to serve the highest public interests. And 


this freedom is undoubtedly circumscribed when, by- 
accepting " honours," the owners of newspapers place 
themselves under an obligation to parties or Governments. 
It is sometimes argued that " honours " grant 
" recognition " to the Press and acknowledge it as a 
pillar of the State. This argument is double-edged. 
Does it not cast a slur upon the Press itself by suggesting 
that such " recognition " is needed to confer " respecta- 
bility " upon it ? In my view it is an error for working 
journalists to accept official " honours," and a worse 
error for newspaper owners to aspire to any rank beyond 
that of independent trusteeship for the public conscience. 
This was certainly the view of John Walter II, the ablest 
proprietor and manager of a newspaper in the nineteenth 
century. He never thought his place in public life could 
be enhanced by any knighthood, baronetcy or peerage. 
And Alfred Harmsworth, journalist of genius though he 
was, lost freedom and dignity when vanity or social 
ambition made him wish to become Lord Northcliffe. 
He set a detestable fashion which lesser men followed. 
In later years he recognised and admitted his mistake. 

Provided that political freedom be preserved, the 
public itself may in time help to save the freedom of the 
Press. A new generation is growing up, a generation 
more widely instructed, by better schools and by wireless 
broadcasting, than any previous generation has been. It 
may display a correspondingly greater independence of 
mind, and thus offer an opening for another journalist of 
genius to do in a new way what Joseph Moses Levy did 
for the middle classes with his penny Daily Telegraph in 
the third quarter of last century, and what Alfred 
Harmsworth did in its closing years with his halfpenny 
Daily Mail. 

In the eighteen-nineties Alfred Harmsworth saw that 
the County Council Schools were beginning to turn out 
a new class of potential newspaper readers. He under- 


stood that this class would eagerly buy a journal cheaper 
than the penny newspapers of those days, especially if 
there were not too much " blood and culture " about it. 
So he launched the Daily Mail at a halfpenny. If it was 
notwritten "by gentlemen for gentlemen" as Thackeray's 
ideal Pall Mall Gazette was supposed to be neither 
did it quite deserve the gibe that it was written " by office 
boys for office boys." It was deliberately " popular " ; 
and, despite rumours which Harmsworth carefully 
abstained from denying that it was losing money fast, 
it succeeded from the outset. Before its first number was 
actually published, several experimental or " dummy " 
issues were printed. So it took to flight full-fledged ; and 
before any rival venture could be started it was in so 
strong a position that no competition could hurt it. 

In time, of course, Harmsworth's example found 
imitators. Some of them succeeded in their turn ; and the 
success of the halfpenny Press compelled most of the 
olderpenny newspapers to copy its methods and to reduce 
their price. As Mr. J. A. Spender, one of the most 
eminent and respected of living journalists, wrote some 
years ago in his Life, Journalism and Politics: Harms- 
worth (or Northcliffe) kt was immensely important, 
however much solemn people might try to blink or evade 
the fact. He and his imitators influenced the common 
mind more than all the Education Ministers put together; 
of all the influences that destroyed the old politics and 
put the three-decker journalist out of action, his was by 
far the most powerful." Mr. Spender notes, too, that 
Northcliffe never made the mistake which some of his 
successors have not avoided that of looking upon 
journalism, or the '* newspaper industry," primarily as 
a means of making money. " Though the money rolled 
in," Mr. Spender writes, kt he (Northcliffe) was not in the 
least vulgar about it. He had known the pinch of poverty 
in his childhood and, with his usual directness, appears 
to have made up his mind quite early in life that the 


obstruction to happiness must be put out of the way for 
himself and all his family before anything else was done. 
For the rest, money was to him as it was to Cecil Rhodes, 
the means to power, and he was entirely without purse- 
pride in any of the ordinary relations of life. . . . His 
insight into the popular mind was so unerring as to make 
him a perfect master of crowd psychology." 

The future of the British Press may be determined by 
the next " perfect master of crowd psychology " who is 
able to found or to control a newspaper. But the crowd 
will not be Northcliffe's crowd. The prevailing interests 
of the young to-day are by no means the same as were 
those of the youths and maidens to whom the nascent 
Daily Mail appealed. If life has been largely mechanised, 
the scientific principles which mechanical inventions 
embody play a growing part in it. Means of com- 
munication and of movement are swifter. The impulse 
is less to read or to hear about things than to do them. 
Action, sometimes feverish, sometimes aimless, is pre- 
ferred to thought or contemplation. Social conventions 
are no longer respected solely because they are traditional. 
Curiosity, which may imply a desire for knowledge, is 
strong, and it is not confined to things material. Many 
a former scientific "certainty" has given place to 
scientific doubt. The material universe itself is now 
conceived as immaterial and mysterious. A sense of 
the wonder of things is more general to-day than it has 
been for long past, a sense tin harder to canalise and to 
define because it is unaccompanied by awe, because the 
creeds of the Churches no longer command general 
acceptance, and because the Churches themselves lack 
spiritual power. It is almost as though youth to-day 
were seeking after some not unreasonable faith that 
shall lift it above and free it from the trammels of 

The successful journalist of to-morr0w may be the 


man or the woman who can apprehend these gropings 
of the ** mass mind," and help to guide them without 
attempting to lay down the law or to dictate. If the 
Press would lead, it must first follow. In any case, it 
must march so nearly abreast of its readers as to seem 
to be keeping pace with them. To run too far ahead is 
to lose touch. The ideal journalist of to-morrow would 
be one who, having mastered the wisdom of the philo- 
sophers, ancient and modern, and having assimilated the 
knowledge of men of science, mechanical engineers and 
political economists, should hide all these things in his 
bosom and give as much of them to his millions of 
readers as he felt they could readily digest. If it is a 
mistake for the Press to march far ahead of the crowd, 
not less mistaken is it to imagine that the crowd will 
follow only those who " play down " to it. The crowd 
likes to feel that those whom it follows know where to 
go and how to get there. Above all, the crowd likes its 
leaders to be proved right by events. It does not easily 
forgive those who mislead or who fail to guide it at 
difficult turnings. 

Is there no loftier task for the Press than that of 
leading the crowd, after having followed it far enough 
to know whither it wishes to go ? Would it not be a 
higher ambition to speak for and to a select few, an 
aristocracy of mind and heart ? Must journalism always 
minister to a rabble ? Is there no intrinsic excellence of 
thought that will command, directly or indirectly, the 
allegiance of the multitude ? 

No. Not if the Press be mainly an industry; not if 
revenue go chiefly to big circulations ; not if the costs of 
newspaper production remain so high as to call for huge 
incomes from advertisements; not if the Press is to retain 
the kind of independence and freedom which only com- 
mercial prosperity can bestow. There may, indeed, be 
high-class or " highbrow " newspapers and other 
publications of limited appeal which will influence the 


public men who influence the masses. A few of these 
papers may survive if they be edited and managed with 
true journalistic instinct, and if the quality of their news 
and views be such as to enable them to withstand in 
their own sphere the competition of cheaper and more 
popular sheets. But if they fall into the sin of dullness, 
if a sense of their own superiority betray them into losing 
touch with or induce them to ignore the healthy instincts 
of the public, they will inevitably decline and will either 
disappear or become the appurtenances of a restricted 
caste. Their best chance of vigorous survival is daily to 
prove their superior worth by being better, both as 
*' newspapers " and as " viewspapers," than their 
popular rivals. Thus they might ennoble the Press. 

Mr. Bernard Shaw has written some shrewd truths 
upon journalism. *' What people cannot endure/' he 
declares, " is the pompous oracle with nothing to say, 
the noodle's oration, the twaddler's pulpit platitudes and 
the ranter's tirade. They prefer snippets because the 
snippets are usually much better. But let anyone come 
along who can supply the real thing, and the public 
cannot have enough of it." 

What is " the real thing " ? Evidently something that 
people feel to be vital, something that affects their lives 
and bears out or extends their experience and knowledge. 
To " come along with the real thing " is the true business 
of editors. But, as Mr. Bernard Shaw insisted, " capable 
editors are very rare " because J hey must have " ability 
enough and to spare for literature and yet deliberately 
prefer journalism to literature as an occupation." He 
went on : 

Note also, as to daily papers, that their offices are prisons 
in which the cleverest editor will soon lose touch with the 
world, being cut off as he is from political meetings, 
scientific lectures, concerts and even dinners by the hours 
during which he has to work, A daily paper should have at 
least three editors, each having one day on and two days 


off. At present the papers are 20 years behind the times 
because the editors are recluses. Lighthouse keepers with 
wireless sets know far more of what is going on in the 

Within limits, this is sound criticism though the 
44 three editor " idea hardly fits in with Mr. Shaw's earlier 
statement that " capable editors are very rare." At the 
same time it is true that in many newspaper offices the 
theory, and often the practice, of editorship are now fully 
twenty years behind the times. It is the ambi ion of most 
journalists to become editors because the title of editor 
is still surrounded by the glamour which once attached to 
the man who was able to lay down the policy of a great 
journal and to tell its readers what they ought to think. 
Sixty or seventy years ago, when newspapers might be 
printed as late as five or six a.m., and their editors had 
time for reflection after dining with statesmen and others 
who held political power, editorial opinion could and did 
influence the course of affairs. But nowadays the theory 
that an editor wields supreme authority, and that the 
final decision rests with him on all matters of moment, 
may compel him to make up his mind a hundred times 
in the course of a hurried afternoon or evening, and to 
make it up quickly. In order to make these decisions he 
must be on the spot. Otherwise decisions will have to be 
taken by assistants who may not have all the threads of 
policy in their hands or who are uncertain of the editor's 
own mind. Newspapers cannot now be properly edited 
after the reading-matter they contain has been set up in 
type and " pulled " in proof. They have to be edited, 
that is to say, conceived and planned, before the type- 
setters get to work. If not, they lose unity, coherence 
and grip. An editor who wishes really to control his 
paper can hardly be other than a prisoner. 

Perceiving this, and wishing to control their papers 

, themselves, some newspaper proprietors have tried to 

reduce the function of editorship to insignificance and 


to treat the nominal editors as figureheads. This is a 
short-sighted method. Newspaper owners have rarely 
the time or the skill for the technical work of an editor, 
nor can they be so constantly on the spot as to ensure the 
unity of their journal. They may appoint " day editors," 
" news editors," " foreign editors," " picture editors," 
and '* City editors " who are made responsible for 
different departments, and leave the editor-in-chief to 
co-ordinate the work of these assistants as best he may. 
But if the editor-in-chief attempts merely to overrule 
them and to play the autocrat he retards the smooth 
production of his paper and is apt to destroy whatever 
vitality it might otherwise possess. The speed and 
complexity of modern journalism have made autocratic 
editorship an anachronism. 

Yet efficient editorship is still essential to a good 
newspaper. Its function is no longer to impose one 
man's notions upon a subordinate staff; it is that of 
leadership in a team of comrades. An editor's work is 
both to supply ideas to his fellows and to draw out their 
ideas. He has to determine the policy of his paper, 
perhaps, after discussion with the proprietors, and then 
to expound its principles to his chief associates so that 
all may know and accept it willingly. He takes re- 
sponsibility for it and " covers " his associates in their 
application of it. The editorship of a great newspaper 
has been likened to the comirand of a battleship in 
action. So, in many ways, it is. Every man needs to 
know his duty and to be ready and fit to do it at a 
moment's notice. A trained eye sees at a glance which 
newspapers are produced by a well-led team, working to 
a common policy, and which by a leaderless group of 
lieutenants with spasmodic interference from editors or 

How should policy be determined? Is it not de- 
pendent upon the facts of a situation and upon changes 
that may occur ? Can there be a worse journalistic mis- 


demeanour than to trim or to suppress news lest it conflict 
with a pre-conceived policy ? It is here that the true 
virtue of editorship begins. Broadly speaking, an 
editor should be able to foresee the news, that is to say, 
the coming of events which will be news. His vision 
should be world-wide and his mind made up on most of 
the contingencies that seem likely to arise. If his staff 
at home and abroad know him to be wideawake and 
interested in the things that cast their shadows before, 
they will give him timely warning. So, when their 
reports of those things reach him, he is ready to deal 
with them. His readers soon feel whether he is guiding 
them aright ; and however much they may be inclined to 
question or to resent judgments which they may think 
hard, or comment that appears to go beyond the facts 
publicly known, they will give his paper credit for fuller 
knowledge than they themselves possess if the sequel 
proves it not to have been mistaken. The essence of 
policy, in the editorship of newspapers as in the govern- 
ment of States, is foresight based on knowledge. 

This is the highest form of flair, or " a nose for news, 1 ' 
a gift without which no editor and few journalists can 
make a lasting mark. What the gift consists of it is hard 
to say. Intuition may be part of it. Another part may 
be a keener faculty of observation than that of ordinary 
mortals. But I have never known any journalist develop 
this gift in an outstanding degree without constant work 
and close attention to detail. The very art <jf news- 
getting demands sustained interest in a wide variety of 
subjects. News is rarely to be got by those who merely 
ask for it. It has to be worked for. A foreign corre- 
spondent who relies only upon what he can glean from 
the journals of the country where he lives, or upon what 
officials, ambassadors or statesmen have an interest to 
tell him, may soon be left behind in the race. He needs 
to study the history, the affairs and the men of that 
country more closely than they are studied by its own 


citizens, so as to be able to give information or well- 
informed advice to the very people from whom he may 
expect to get news. He must seek, whenever possible, 
to co-operate with these people rather than to tap them 
for "exclusive items," and he must be equal to them 
in the responsible appreciation of news which may 
concern them or their countries. Then his news will 
come to him almost unawares because he has taken pains 
to understand the circumstances out of which it may 
arise and has won the confidence of the men who can 
give it. 

In his own way every good journalist is a sort of editor. 
He collects, examines, sifts and passes judgment upon 
facts and probabilities. And every good editor is a 
trustee for the mental and moral welfare of his readers. 
He will know what information to give and what to with- 
hold, how far public welfare may demand a complete 
revelation of all ascertainable facts, and how far dis- 
cretion is the better part of publicity. He has to combine 
in some degree the faculties of a pioneer, a statesman, a 
writer, a seer and a business man, and to exercise them all 
in the light of encyclopaedic knowledge either of his own 
or of others upon whom he can call at a moment's notice. 

It is not surprising that individuals thus gifted, and 
capable at the same time of leading a team of journalists, 
are rare or that they tend, amid the hurry and racket of 
modern newspaper production, to become rarer. Still 
they exist and, given initial aptitude, the practice of 
journalism helps to bring them forth. Initial aptitude 
may be simply a passion for the public weal, or a desire 
to be in the thick of things, or overmastering curiosity 
to know what is going on and why. Without some 
passion a newspaper man is no journalist and will never 
be a true editor. The Frenchman who said that 
^ journalism leads to everything provided one gets out 
of it," never had the stuff of a real journalist in him. Not 
only editors but all journalists proper " deliberately prefer 


journalism to literature as an occupation." They prefer 
it to any other occupation since no other can give them 
the same swift delight, the same sense of complete 
though it may be fleeting achievement, the same joy 
in striking a shrewd blow at the right time for a good 
cause. As Kipling put it in his famous poem on " The 

Who once hath stood through the loaded houi 

Ere, roaring like the gale, 
The Harrild and the Hoc devour 

Their league-long paper-bale, 
And has lit his pipe in the morning calm 

That follows the midnight stress 
He hath sold his heart to the old Black Art 

We call the daily Pi ess. 

Who once hath dealt in the widest game 

That all of a man can play, 
No later love, no larger fame 

Will lure him long away. 
As the war-horse smelleth the battle afar, 

The entered Soul, no less, 
He saith. " Ha ! Ha ! " where the trumpets are 

And the thunders of the Press ! 

It matters naught to a journalist that his triumphs be 
evanescent; that his task is never ended; that, when the 
presses begin to hum at midnight, or earlier, and to- 
morrow's paper is on its way to the mail trains, he has to 
turn his thoughts to the paper of the day after to-morrow 
which, once again, will be to him a thing of yesterday 
before his readers see it. With the Time-Spirit in Goethe's 
Faust he may exclaim : 

" Thus at the roaring loom of time I ply " 
and alter the next line to make it say that he weaves 
for men a pattern of the world's doings. 

This is the secret of the power of the Press over the 


men who make newspapers. The most nota ble journalist 
of the nineteenth century, Thomas Barnes, the man who, 
with John Walter II, made The Times newspaper, 
understood it fully. He was the first and greatest of its 
editors. By intense devotion to his calling he impressed 
his personality on every department of his paper. 
Deliberately, he preferred journalism to literature as an 
occupation. As the authorsof The History of ' The Times ' 
recognise, Barnes was " willing to give himself prodigally 
to the most exacting task in journalism, ready to forgo 
making himself a name in the history of Letters in order 
to place The Times at the head of the Press. His achieve- 
ment equals in merit much of the literature of that dis- 
tinguished generation, but no memoir of him was 
published. . . Yet as a literary man alone Barnes 
deserves to be remembered. . . The loss to literature 
was gain to The Times. . . Circumstances called for a 
man of courage, capacity and determination, a man with 
a policy." And Barnes was such a man. Politicians 
constantly charged The Times during the late 1830's 
with being violent, offensive and tyrannous. The 
History of ' The Times ' answers : 

Its style was certainly forcible, and it was always 
deliberate. The energy and offensiveness were calculated, 
the nice use of strong language belonging to the essence of 
Barnes's notion of journalism. To a correspondent who 
sent him some articles he wrote that they were " good as 
far as they went, but wanted a 1'ttle devil in them." 

Newspaper writing (Barnes explained) is a thing sui 
generis ; it is in literature what brandy is in beverages. 
John Bull, whose understanding is rather sluggish I 
speak of the majority of readers requires a strong 
stimulus. He consumes his beef and cannot digest 
it without a dram; he dozes composedly over his 
prejudices which his conceit calls opinions; and you 
must fir6 ten-pounders at his densely-compacted intel- 
lect before you can make it comprehend your meaning 
or care one farthing for your efforts. 


He himself was excellent at putting *' a little devil " into 
material which came to him . . . One of Barnes's supreme 
gifts was the power of adapting to the public taste articles 
in themselves of inferior merit ; he had the art of infusing 
into them a spirit and a force which gave them an effect 
they could not have produced in their original form. For, 
unlike many writers on the Treasury Press, he was a 
joinnalist. . . As for the leading articles, they had plenty 
of " devil " in them at that critical period of Parliament : 
44 Ten-pounders " of The Times earned the paper the nick- 
name of " The Thunderer." 

Here we have the secret of the power of the Press in 
so far as that power is derived from fearless service of 
public interest: " Barnes was a journalist." He believed 
neither in the suppression of unpalatable news, nor in 
euphemisms when straight, hard language was called for. 
His paper was perfectly co-ordinated. It was " all of a 
piece." And in so far as the Press may wish to retain 
its positive power it will always be compelled to enlist 
real journalists and to keep at arm's length the self- 
seekers, the humble servants of the mighty, and the men 
who imagine that they adorn the Press instead of feeling 
that their whole lives are well sacrificed to it. An 
exacting mistress, the Press draws ardent souls and binds 
them with potent magic. 

So it will be while newspapers deserve to endure, and 
newspapers will deserve to endure as long as the public 
desire to know what is afoot and to know it as a right, 
not as a privilege graciously bestowed by Governments, 
corporations or vested interests of any kind. The Press 
will endure and deserve to endure as long as it can 
discharge, in free communities, its function of public 
criticism and its wardenship of the public conscience. 
As an industry the Press may be profitable or unprofitable. 
As a profession it may be noble or ignoble. As an art it 
may offer scope to the finest brains and characters and 
to journalistic harlotry. As a vocation it may be exalted 


or contemptible. As a ministry it may be the loftiest 
any layman can enter, or a cloak for depravity. But as 
an opening for those who can take it and are minded to 
use it without counting the cost to themselves 
journalism has hardly a peer. Kipling wrote well :~~ 

The Pope may launch his Interdict, 

The Union its decree, 
But the bubble is blown and the bubble is pricked 

By Us and such as We, 
Remember the battle and stand aside 

While Thrones and Powers confess 
That Kins over all the children of pride 

Is the Press the Press the Press, 

To be " King over all the children of pride," to chasten 
the haughty and succour the weak, to scorn the bigot 
and confound the sceptic, to serve truth without fear, to 
admonish the people and expose the demagogue, to 
chide the wayward and embolden the faint-heartedin 
a word, to provide sound comment upon public life in 
all its aspects should be the task of the Press and the 
source of its power. And it is the danger lest it cut 
itself off from this source by becoming a mere "industry/' 
by pandering to the public for the sake of the big circula- 
tions which bring big revenues, that makes the problem 
of the Press to-day the central problem of modern 



" EVERY country has the Press it deserves," runs a facile 
truism. Assuming, not granting, its soundness we may 
ask : " What Press do we deserve ? " 

The answer is not easy. In a Fascist Year Book of 
the Italian Press an anonymous Italian writer says : " If 
Great Britain still possesses some journals that are among 
the best in the world, she possesses others that are un- 
doubtedly the worst in the world or at any rate in 
Europe." With this verdict I find little reason to quarrel 
except in so far as even our worst journals are not 
subject to official censorship or control. We cannot have 
it both ways. The freedom which allows a great 
provincial organ like the Manchester Guardian fear- 
lessly to proclaim truths essential to the health of the 
body-politic, or which enabled The Times in 1852* to 
teach statesmen a wholesome lesson upon the functions 
of an upright Press, cannot be so circumscribed as wholly 
to exclude the bad while fostering the good. But is 
freedom so great a good in itself that for its sake what is 
less good should be tolerated? When the present 
condition and the possible future of the British Press are 
pondered over, it is this old question of the worth of 
freedom that is seen to lie at the root of the matter. 

Every generation has to solve this question for itself. 
To no attribute of human life does Goethe's saying apply 
more aptly; "That which thy fathers have bequeathed 
to thee, earn it anew if thou wouldst possess it." In 

* See Chapter '< The Press and the State." 



my own view, freedom is not absolutely or intrinsically 
dependent upon material conditions or despite Karl 
Marx upon methods of industrial production. There 
may indeed, be a subtle connection between the right to 
own some degree of private property and the enjoyment 
of active liberty. The suppression of all private 
property would probably entail so complete a depend- 
ence of individuals upon the State that those in control 
of the State would be unlikely to tolerate actions or 
opinions unwelcome to them, or to leave room for any 
save passive and mute dissent from their decrees. And 
seeing that freedom, for all practical purposes, is the 
freedom of individual human beings to express them- 
selves by the spoken or the written word, or by action 
within the framework of laws freely made and accepted, 
enforced silence is not very different from imprisonment 
of the mind. The Press, the right of public speech and 
of public meeting, representative institutions and the 
other characteristics of democracy, connote freedom 
because they are agencies for the free expression of 
thought. Without the right to express dissent there can 
be no freedom in the political sense. Men's minds 
rarely dwell upon the fundamentals of life unless those 
fundamentals are endangered or their existence den ed. 
Perhaps because fundamental liberties are now en- 
dangered or their value denied in so large a part of 
Europe and the world, there has of late been a tendency 
to think of them and to enquire how it has come about 
that doctrines which our grandfathers held to be 
axiomatic, and institutions painfully built up and safe- 
guarded through centuries of struggle, should to-day 
be challenged or overthrown. In common with many 
others I, too, have been thinking of these things; and, 
for what they may be worth, I shall set down the con- 
clusions I have reached. They will be found to have 
some bearing upon the future of the Press. 
It is no accident that in Italy and Germany, where 


freedom has disappeared and the Press has become 
an instrument of domestic and foreign propaganda, 
the State which it serves should be proclaimed as " an 
Absolute." Any thoughtful enquiry into the value 
of liberty leads forthwith to an examination of the rival 
claims of the Absolute and the Relative, and brings us, 
soon or late, to conclude that mundane freedom is a 
constant negation of absolutisms intellectual, spiritual 
and political a perennial experiment in relativity, a 
ceaseless process of adjusting ideals to circumstances. 
Now the circumstances upon which our practical freedom 
depends are the laws, conventions or customs of the 
community to which we belong. Our freedom is 
" conditioned " as the philosophical expression goes 
by the existence of the society or community in which 
we possess and enjoy it. It bears no relation to the 
hypothetically absolute freedom of Robinson Crusoe on 
his uninhabited island before the advent of Man Friday 
for with the arrival of Man Friday the elements of a 
community or society began to creep in. So our free- 
dom is social or political, not freedom in the abstract. 
And in proportion as communities develop beyond the 
primitive stage in which every man may have ample 
elbow room and be a law unto himself, the freedom 
of its members becomes more dependent upon others, 
less absolute, more qualified by circumstances. 

This qualified freedom we might call " objective " 
inasmuch as it is surrounded by conditions that are 
outside and independent of our personal likes and 
dislikes. Yet into it there enters another qualifying 
condition which may be called " subjective." Restric- 
tions to which we grow accustomed cease to be irksome. 
We do not feel that they limit our freedom. We find 
that it may not matter so much to our sense of freedom 
whether we are under constraint of circumstance, physical 
or social, as whether that constraint irks us. In other 
words, the degree of our " objective " freedom may seem 


of less moment than our " subjective " feeling that there 
is no reason why we should revolt against the discipline 
of laws, customs and institutions. As well, we may 
think, revolt against the law of gravitation. 

We need, however, to be careful before we accept 
the essentials of freedom as being mainly subjective. 
Otherwise our surroundings may end by cramping us 
so completely as to render us incapable of free thought 
or word or deed. We may lose the power and then the 
will to withstand interferences with our physical liberty. 
We may become tolerant of intolerance and allow our- 
selves to be intimidated by the organised violence which 
is intolerance in action. So the first of the conclusions 
I have reached in musing upon the worth of freedom is 
the seeming paradox that intolerance is the one thing 
we cannot tolerate if we would remain free. We have, 
for instance, to tolerate bad journals if we would remain 
tree to have good journals. 

This conclusion brings me back to the question of 
relativity. In germ, toleration raises the practical issue 
between the absolute and the relative. It admits that 
there is no one absolute political or social truth. Nay, 
more : Not only does it accept, it postulates criticism 
and freedom to criticise. Now freedom to criticise is 
both the safeguard of personal liberty and the source of 
progress in knowledge and in action. And it carries 
with it the main attribute of ary free society the tolera- 
tion of opinions which many, perhaps most, of its 
members may think wrong. If they tolerate them while 
thinking them wrong ; if they refrain from using violence 
to suppress them; if they seek to overcome them by 
argument and persuasion, they recognise that human 
minds may honestly differ and that it is safer for all 
opinions to be measured one against the other than that 
one of them should be imposed by force or constraint. 
Political freedom does not consist in like-mindedness. 
It consists, negatively, in agreement to differ and, 


positively, in the recognition that differences of view 
within a community make life richer than uniformity, A 
society is free when its customs and laws leave scope for 
individual thought and personal action, and restricts 
only those aspects of freedom which, were they un- 
restricted, would prevent others from enjoying freedom 
An individual in a free society is not free because us laws 
and customs are those which he might prefer, but because 
he has as much say in public or social affairs as any one 
man can have if all are to have then* say and yet live and 
act together. 

It is sometimes claimed that societies ruled by an 
authority which is able to enforce its will are stronger 
than a society in which differences of opinion may 
impede united action. This claim assumes that tolera- 
tion is a sign of weakness and intolerance an attribute of 
strength. I think this claim ill-founded. If there were 
only one political truth, one incontrovertible doctrine, 
the claim might perhaps be valid. But inasmuch as there 
is no absolute political truth, and no such thing as 
infallible human judgment, the attempt to override 
differences of outlook and to enthrone one fallible judg- 
ment as beyond criticism or cavil is inherently weaker 
than the admission that, while all political truths are 
relative, certain relative truths may, by the common 
consent of free minds, be accepted as the soundest work- 
ing rules in human affairs. The weak are those who 
allow their individual judgments to be overridden or who 
seek to escape from the perplexities of human existence 
by taking refuge in some absolute doctrine or theory of 
which the acceptance saves them from the worries and 
uncertainties of critical citizenship. The test of political 
systems lies in the type of citizen which they foster or 
produce. Systems that bar diversity of opinion and 
suppress criticism tend to produce a uniform type of 
citizen and to standardise human minds and cramp 
human conduct. The case for criticism is that civilisa- 


tion cannot progress without it. There must be impunity 
for criticism if society is to be saved from stagnation. 

Yet here an important distinction needs to be drawn 
between freedom of criticism and freedom of conduct. 
As Mr. Bernard Shaw has shrewdly observed (in his 
Preface to On the Rocks), the critic cannot be allowed to 
change his social conduct until his criticism has changed 
the law. He adds : " We are so dangerously uneducated 
in citizenship that most of us assume that we have an 
unlimited right to change our conduct the moment we 
have changed our minds." The difficulty, which can 
only be overcome by education in free citizenship, is to 
distinguish between the critic and the social criminal or 
lunatic, between liberty of precept and license of social 

Now if criticism is to be fruitful, not merely destructive 
of institutions and customs that may have grown up in 
circumstances other than those prevailing at a given 
moment, there must be freedom to make enquiry, to 
know, to speak and to write. It must be possible to 
" air " opinions and to verify the accuracy of the facts 
upon which they are alleged to be based. Without sub- 
stantial freedom of the Press which includes freedom 
of literature this cannot be, as German Nazi writers 
have frankly recognised. Hitler himself lays down 
the doctrine in his book Mem Kampfth&t the aim of the 
State must be to form " a community of living beings 
who are physically and mentaLy alike." Dr. Dietrich, 
the official head of the Nazi Press, has claimed that the 
tk mass thought " of the community, not individual 
thought, must be the source of all knowledge, including 
scientific knowledge. And a Nazi University professor, 
Dr. Otto Koellreutter, deliberately puts " folk-thought " 
high above individual thought. 

Fantastic though these claims may seem to people 
nurtured in freedom, they are logical and consistent 
developments of the totalitarian outlook. In countries 


where freedom is suppressed, neither the deepest philoso- 
phical thought nor accurate historical analysis could be 
tolerated lest the notions prescribed by the State and by 
its Leader be upset. Communist Russia cannot tolerate 
free discussion upon matters like the ownership of 
property. Nazi Germany cannot allow the dogmas of 
blood and race to be called in question. Fascist Italy 
cannot brook free enquiry into the nature and functions 
of the State or into the position of individuals in regard 
to the State. It has silenced so eminent a philosopher as 
Benedetto Croce, whose doctrine of the State and of 
political life hardly strikes me as revolutionary. In his 
little work " Orientamenti " he says: 

To love the State is to work with the State, to put into 
the State and to pour into political life what is best in 
us, our feelings, the truths we think, that is, our active 
faith, our ideals ; and it is this participation which, in 
other words, is called freedom. This freedom is not 
opposition to the State, an offence to its majesty, but is the 
very life of the State itself unless we are ready to suppose 
that the blood circulating and renewing itself continually 
in our veins is lawless agitation against the sovereign calm 
of our physiological organism. Nor is freedom conceivable 
in the State unless it be political freedom to co-operate with 
its life. 

True, the Italian philosopher sins against the light of 
Fascism in not conceiving the State as " an Absolute/* 
Rather does he conceive the State as the executive organ 
of a community and as the sum-total of the functions 
which the community delegates to its executive organ for 
the preservation and furtherance of its own welfare. 
And this concept is not far from that of John Stuart Mill 
who, in his famous essay " On Liberty,'* laid his finger 
upon some of the positive aspects of freedom. After 
showing that if anyone does an act hurtful to others 
there is a prima facie case for punishing him by law or, 
where legal penalties are not safely applicable, by general 
disapprobation, Mill went on : 


There are also many positive acts for the benefit of others 
which he may rightfully be compelled to perform ; such 
as to give evidence in a court of justice; to bear his fan 
share in the common defence or in any other joint woik 
necessary to the interest of the society of which he enjoys 
the protection; and to perform certain acts of individual 
beneficence such as saving a fellow-creature's life, 01 in 
interposing to protect the defenceless against ill-usage, 
things which, whenever it is obviously a man's duty to do 
them, he may be rightfully made responsible to society for 
not doing. A person may cause evil to others not only 
by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is 
justly accountable to them for the injury. 

This sound doctrine applies with especial force to the 
freedom of the Press. In free countries the Press fails 
in its proper task if it glosses over or shrinks from 
exposing abuses or practices harmful to the general 
welfare. It is the duty of the Press to speak out. Its 
allegiance is to the public, not to any constituted 
authority ; for the only check upon abuses of authority 
is public knowledge of how authority is being exercised. 
By insisting that men and, a f onion, newpapers 
are answerable not only for what they do but for the 
consequence of failing to do what they ought, Mill, 
the liberal philosopher, was not far from the well-known 
passage in the Anglican confession which runs: "We 
have done that which we ought not to have done, and 
have left undone that which we ought to have done; 
and there is no health in us." In other words, sins of 
omission may be as subversive of freedom as sins of 

If the practise and the defence of freedom require 
spontaneous, active citizenship it is none the less true 
that we need to review and revise our ideas upon what 
constitutes freedom in the light of changing circum- 
stances. A century ago an income-tax which now takes 
more than a quarter of a citizen's revenue, and a 


succession duty which may confiscate one-half of his 
estate, would have been denounced as unwarrantable 
inroads upon the rights of private property and of 
personal freedom. To-day they are tolerated or 
accepted as matters of course. Less than a century ago 
there was much talk of the right of employers to buy 
" free labour " in a " free market," and workmen who 
could earn good wages by the sale of their labour thought 
themselves free. The history of the Trade Union move- 
ment in this country is that of attempts to improve 
44 this freedom " by collective bargaining, despite the 
fact that Trade Union discipline deprived individual 
wage-earners of freedom to sell their labour at whatever 
price it would fetch. Factory legislation which has 
undoubtedly interfered with and curtailed the freedom 
of employers is now thought essential to secure the 
freedom of industrial workers from unfair exploitation; 
and there is some reason to think that reforms will one 
day be needed to prevent freedom in the ownership, if 
not in the use, of " labour-saving " machinery from 
condemning willing hands to another kind of economic 
slavery compulsory idleness for lack of employment. 

So conceptions of freedom, economic and political, 
are obviously relative, that is to say, they depend upon 
circumstances. In my view the right relationship 
between economic and political freedom at given 
moments and under given conditions is a matter for 
reflection and enquiry, not for economic or political 
dogmatism. The dogmatism of the " Manchester " 
School of economic thought, on the one hand, and that 
of Marxism, on the other, has been responsible, directly 
and indirectly, for the eclipse of the liberal philosophy 
which sustained the doctrine of freedom in the nineteenth 
century. And if the dogmatists of Socialism to-day 
stand aghast at totalitarian reactions against the enforce- 
ment of Marxist dogma in Russia, they would do well to 
enquire how far Marxist and Socialist contempt for the 


principles of political freedom may help to account for 
the very evils which they deplore. The " dictatorship 
of the proletariate " and the doctrine of the " class- 
struggle " are as incompatible with any sound philosophy 
of human freedom as are the doctrines of Fascism and 
Nazism. The very idea of dictatorship is a denial of 
freedom; and there is no sounder warrant for a dicta- 
torship in the name of proletarians or " have-nots " 
than there is for dictatorships on behalf of other sections 
of a community that may have something to lose and 
be loth to lose it. Few passages in Hitler's book, Mem 
Kampf, show keener discernment than those in which 
he describes the fear of the lower middle-class lest it 
be thrust back into the ranks of proletarian wage- 
earners from which it has managed to escape; and 
Hitler's shrewdness in perceiving that his " National 
Socialist " movement would appeal with especial force 
to the lower middle-class in Germany was certainly 
not inferior to that of Marx and the Marxian Socialists 
who based their plans for successful revolutionary 
violence on the belief that if the proletarians of the 
world would unite as an irresistible mass they could 
break their chains. Fascism and Nazism have installed 
tyranny by pretending to defend property. With his 
wonted aptness of phrase, Don Salvador de Madariaga 
has put the thing in a nutshell. " Fascism is but the 
image of Communism on the waters of fear." 

As 1 have sought to show, it is no accident that these 
various dictatorships should be at one in destroying 
the freedom of the Press. Men who have not the sense 
of freedom in them cannot brook a free Press. On the 
other hand, a mumbling of the shibboleths of 
4< democracy " is no substitute for faith in freedom. 
Indeed, the poverty of political thought among 
" advanced " parties in countries that are still free is 
one of the most depressing intellectual phenomena of 
our time. So long as they speak and behave as though 


they were convinced that men live by bread alone, that 
" economics " provide the master-key which can open 
every door to political wisdom, the language of 
freedom will never be their mother tongue nor will they 
speak it with the inspired accents of the great leaders 
who knew the worth of liberty in and for itself. They 
may even find that the despised bourgeoisie,the rapacious 
capitalist and industrial class, have retained enough 
enlightenment to understand that the true choice of 
free communities does not lie between the " ideologies " 
of totalitarian Communism, on the " Left," and of 
Fascism and Nazism, on the " Right," but must be 
fixed upon the ideology of ordered freedom which has 
been the greatest contribution of English thought and 
experience to the civilisation of the human race. 

We need to go more closely into this matter if only 
because it governs, in the last resort, any possibility 
of freedom for the Press. We must ask why the present 
threat to freedom has grown so formidable, why great 
peoples like the Italians and the Germans have lost 
their liberty, why they seem to glory in systems of 
repression. Why have we seen prominent British public 
men, including owners of influential newspapers, bow 
before the Leaders of those systems and, overlooking 
the foul crimes for which those Leaders have been 
responsible, hearken to their words and extol their 
deeds ? 

The answer is that when one dictatorial system, like 
Russian Communism, establishes itself by violence and, 
with the help of an omnipresent and ruthless police, 
crushes both personal and political freedom and abolishes 
the private ownership of property, other systems which 
profess to protect private property develop in opposi- 
tion to the first and, also by violence and secret police, 
destroy not only the men and the parties that favour 
Communism but the supporters of freedom and repre- 


sentative democracy as well. If ordinary folk, from 
people with savings-banks accounts or little cottages to 
the well-to-do or the wealthy, think their possessions 
are in danger, and are bidden to choose between systems 
of which the one suppresses freedom and property while 
the other appears to suppress only freedom, they are 
tempted to prefer the loss of liberty in the hope of 
preserving their property. This temptation seems to 
me the essence of the present threat to freedom, including 
freedom of the Press ; and the threat is the more insidious 
because, once the choice has been made, those who have 
made it may find, too late, that they have thrown away 
their freedom to possess, no less than their freedom to 
think, to act and to speak. 

The defects of what is vaguely called the " capitalist 
system " may or may not outweigh its merits. But in 
countries which retain representative democratic systems 
and their adjunct, the freedom of the Press, " capitalism " 
has ;still the virtue of leaving its critics free to criticise it. 
And by public criticism the abuses of capitalism can be 
mitigated or put right. As I have said, it is freedom to 
criticise that is essential to liberty in civilised com- 
munities ; or, as a distinguished British civil servant put 
it, not long ago, it is " the right to tell the Government 
to go to Hell." Without it there can be no guarantee 
of personal freedom and no certainty of progress, no 
protection against the arbitrary whims of fallible 
dictators and no effective exercise of private judgment. 
A free community, with freedom to express opinion 
through its newspapers, on public platforms, and in 
Parliament through elected representatives, can change 
its rulers and its laws without disaster when it feels 
that public welfare demands a change, whereas in 
totalitarian countries change cannot be wrought without 
upheaval or violence. For a time, and under stress of 
emergency, a dictatorship may be more efficient than 
a democracy. It does not follow that democracies, 


instructed in public affairs by their public men and by a 
vigilant, outspoken Press, need always be less efficient 
than dictatorships. And it remains broadly true that 
the margin of inefficiency in democracies, the time-lag 
between their recognition of what should be done and 
the doing of it, is in the nature of an insurance premium 
against disaster when change is needed. Even in 
matters of life and death, such as war, it has yet to be 
proved that free democracies are inferior as political 
systems to communities which obey commands from 
above. It was not the democracies that were worsted in 
the Great War, however egregiously lack of insight and 
leadership among them may since have brought them 
to the verge of losing the peace and may have imperilled 
their very existence. 

To my mind the whole problem of the worth of 
freedom can now be put into three questions : Is a free 
personality more valuable as an element in human life 
than a personality moulded and shaped by the dictates 
of a supreme leader at the head and controlling the 
resources of an omnipotent totalitarian State? Are 
free individual wills more likely to advance human 
welfare than wills so disciplined and directed from the 
cradle up that they automatically obey a word of com- 
mand ? Is there no peril to mankind, no danger to 
the progress of knowledge, no threat to everything we 
understand by " civilisation," in the creation of vast 
communities of like-minded beings who will stampede as 
a herd at the behest of one man ? 

It is the old issue whether the individual mind, thinking 
and concluding freely, is worth more as an asset to 
humanity than the mass mind or what Hitler calls 
" herd-unity." He attributes the unanimity of the 
British peoples in the Great War to the superior quality 
of their " head-unity " as against the dispersive ten- 
dencies of German minds. But he seems not to have 
understood that our ** herd-unity " was the willing 


co-operation of members of free communities in an hour 
of danger to their own freedom, or that, in the presence 
of this danger, they deliberately waived many a hard- 
won right with a spontaneous spirit of self-devotion that 
only a community of individuals, long expert in free- 
dom and wont to bear its responsibilities, could have 
displayed. So he took up the idea of like-minded herd- 
instinct, to be enforced by constraint and propaganda 
upon a German folk-community, as a substitute, an 
Ersatz, for the undictated cohesion of a free people. In 
its political and military aspects this idea was not alien 
to the temperament of the German people which takes 
readily to discipline and likes to move in orderly mass- 
formations. What is comparatively new in Hitler's 
application of it is the obliteration of that freedom of 
thought and enquiry, of research and criticism, which 
had marked the progress of German philosophy and 
science in the past. 

Human progress, as I understand it, has not been 
brought about by " mass-thought " or " likeminded- 
ness." Such steps as men have taken from barbarism 
even to their present low level of enlightenment have 
been prompted by great individual minds. The worth 
of freedom is that it gives a chance to individual minds 
to wrestle with error and ignorance, to seek what is true 
and to proclaim it, and, no matter at what risk, to bear 
witness to the truth they have found. It is an oppor- 
tunity for personal enterprise and endeavour; and, 
politically and socially, an opening for public service. It 
is the antithesis of dictatorial constraint. 

How far do the men who control the British Press 
to-day understand the worth of this freedom ? In what 
degree do the readers of their newspapers realise all that 
" the freedom of the Press" implies ? How far have 
ignorance of and indifference to these matters tended to 
lower journalistic standards until the public gets only the 


sort of Press it may be said to deserve ? Reassuring 
answers to these questions might more easily be given if 
there were proof that the majority, or even a conspicuous 
minority, of British journals were controlled and written 
by men who, having weighed the worth of freedom, know 
that of all human possessions it is the most precious. 
This is a time when the surface gloss on the garment of our 
" democratic" civilisation is wearing off, when the 
strands of the tissue below are being revealed. For the 
British Press in particular, and for the men who control 
it, the hour has come to examine those strands, to see 
whether they were truly woven in years gone by, and 
whether, in such weaving as is now being done, stout 
yarn or thread of shoddy is being used. Free institutions, 
the political form of individual liberty, may soon be on 
trial for their life. The late Earl of Balfour called them 
" the life-blood " of the British Commonwealth. Among 
them none, not even Parliament, is of higher import than 
a free press, a Press as free from commercial, industrial 
or financial tutelage as from subservience to political 
authority. There may still be time for our journals and 
their owners to bethink themselves, to remember the 
conditions of their own existence in freedom, and to 
prove by faithful observance of those conditions that 
they have found the right solution of " the central pro- 
blem of modern democracy." 



A FEW months after Hitler came into power in Germany 
a German journalist asked my advice upon a matter of 
painful urgency. I knew him to be a man of upright 
character and unblemished record. For many years he 
had served with distinction a German journal widely 
respected for its independence of outlook, and he had 
just been warned that his position and, probably, his 
livelihood would depend upon his willingness to sign a 
declaration which would " co-ordinate " him with the 
National Socialist, or Nazi, Party whose views he did 
not share. Should he sign, his self-respect would be 
gone. Should he refuse to sign, he might have only his 
self-respect to live upon. What ought he to do ? 

Rarely have I found it harder to give advice. Could 
I have said to him : " Do not sign and I will see that you 
come to no harm " it would have been easy. But to 
tell a man to be a hero at his own risk without being 
able to offer him lasting support would be cheap heroics 
on my part. I felt that my own " case of conscience M 
was scarcely less painful than his. 

Perhaps from lack of moral courage I declined to 
advise him. I asked him instead to tell me his own 
feelings, and discussed with him all the pros and cons 
' of acceptance or refusal. When I saw that he was 
inclined not to sign the declaration and to take his life 
in his hands, I even played tk Devil's advocate " to the 
extent of suggesting that if all the men of upright 
character were weeded out of the German Press their 



opportunities of rendering service to the German people 
at some future date might be lost. In fact, I tempted 
him to trifle with his conscience so that my own moral 
responsibility for the consequences of his refusal to 
sign the declaration might be lessened. My underlying 
purpose, I suppose, was to save him from taking, in a 
moment of righteous indignation, a decision he might 
afterwards regret. 

He took the decision, refused to sign the declaration, 
lost his position and his livelihood, and has since been 
a wanderer on the face of the earth, living precariously 
upon what little he can earn. Though I met him again, 
not long ago, in a foreign country where he was still 
seeking regular employment, he gave me no hint that 
he had ever doubted the Tightness of the step he took. 
May some future day bring him his just reward ! 

Meanwhile his example, and that of others no less 
heroic, makes the behaviour of the non-Nazi German 
journalists who accepted " co-ordination " look a trifle 
shabby. Have they not become inglorious cogs m a 
Press and propagandist machine which is an integral 
part of the Nazi Totalitarian State ? Do they not write 
to order, with such talent as they may possess, whatever 
Dr. Goebbels or the Secret State Police commands them 
to write? Have they not been put into uniform, or 
livery, to symbolise their servility ? Are they still 
journalists or have they become scribbling lackeys? 
The answer may depend upon the further questions 
whether a Press that is not free is a tfc Press " at all, and 
whether there can be any room in a totalitarian State 
for journalism as free countries understand it. 

The German " Press " is an instrument of government. 
It is playing the part assigned to it in the Nazi scheme 
of things; and those who care for the freedom of the 
British Press, as an aspect of British political freedom 
in general, should understand what this part is and its 
relation to the Nazi system. 

c 2 


In a German work entitled Die Zeitungspotitische 
Aufgabe (The Political Task of the Press), Herr Wilhelm 
Waldkirch defines with admirable clearness the Nazi 
view of the function of newspapers. He says that the 
political task of the Press can only be conceived as the 
unconditional recognition of Leadership in the State 
and the furtherance by newspapers of the Leader's 
plans without restriction or reservation. The wide 
significance of this task, he argues, needs to be grasped 
so that all the energies of the German Press may be 
brought to bear in the successful re-fashioning of 
political life. What German newspapers do or fail to 
do may influence decisively the further development of. 
the German State. Hence the importance of recognising 
and understanding what the political task of news- 
papers is. 

Happily, Herr Waldkirch goes on, harmful divergence 
and variety of political purpose in Germany have now 
been totally removed from public life, and likewise the 
journalism which served party ends and never cared 
for the inner worth of the German " folk-character.'' In 
no event can a newspaper now be permitted to have a 
policy of its own or to express views and opinions 
calculated to impede the Leadership of the State. In 
earlier days there was far too much criticism, and critics 
may have believed that they were serving the general 
interest. But even then earnest observers saw that such 
ideas were false and must lead to error. To-day it is 
more widely understood that a new era demands new 
ideas. The Government means to keep the Leadership 
of the State firmly in its own hands, and the newspapers 
must comprehend this necessity and support in every 
way the plans of the Government. 

Herr Waldkirch drives home his point by various 
quotations from the Leader's own speeches, which insist 
that a revolution can only succeed if it stamps its spirit 
upon a whole people, that the new Nazi State must 


fashion new men, and that it is the mission of the Press 
to put the right stamp upon them. Or, in Hitler's words : 
" A newspaper is the means of popular self-education " 
in the ideas of the Leader who controls the State. 
Dr. Goebbels, whom Herr Waldkirch quotes with 
approval, expresses the same view in his declaration that 
the privilege of writing is bound up with the obligation 
to serve the State. 

From these and many other corroborative statements 
it is plain that the whole conception of the freedom of 
the Press, and of individual freedom itself, has been 
eliminated from the German political outlook. A 
German newspaper can no longer be an organ of 
" public opinion." It must be a means of impressing 
upon the public what the Leader of the State decides 
that the public should think. Some mental effort may 
be needed in Great Britain, and in other countries 
where the Press is still comparatively free, to grasp the 
full meaning of this revolution, and to understand that 
the power of an enslaved and " co-ordinated " Press 
may lie even more in what it does not say or dare not 
publish than in what it publishes or affirms. Assertion 
uncorroborated by statements of fact, or by arguments 
based upon them, may engender doubt. But the 
suppression of facts upon which individual minds might 
place their own interpretations is a more insidious and 
potent method of preventing the growth of critical 
opinion. In this way the process of compulsory 
*' co-ordination " to which German newspapers have 
been subjected since 1933 is extended by them to the 
whole people through the suppression of facts as much 
as through the positive inculcation of the Leader's 
commands upon their readers. 

In dealing with Germany as, indeed, with other 
totalitarian countries the statesmen and journalists of 
free countries have therefore to reckon with an unpre- 
cedented state of international affairs. The very dimen- 


tries the daily Press distinguishes itself clearly from the 
Press of the rest of the world. 

What is it that distinguishes the Press of Nazi Germany 
and Fascist Italy from the Press of the rest of the world? 
The Year Book explains the difference by saying that 
" Fascism, first-born among the movements of renewal 
in Europe, was a great crusade for the liberation of the 
Italian spirit. . . . Was it a return to the primitive? 
Yes, but this is exactly the starting point of efficient revo- 
lution which restores to the people, on the morrow of 
historical cataclysms, a kind of virginal quality." 
Fascist journalism, the Year Book claims, has renewed 
the youth of the Italian people, and places before it, by 
careful selection, facts of historical value, not merely 
chaotic news. Still it cannot be said that under the 
Fascist system the Press has yet completed its evolution. 
The system has put the Press in the front line and allows 
it a noble initiative. The obedience to the State-idea 
which is required of Italian journalists is therefore not 
the obedience of well-fed lackeys but that of faithful 
soldiers ; and this idea of the State is defined in the 8th 
volume of the Writings and Speeches ofBenito Mussolini, 
which says : " The apex of the Fascist doctrine is the con- 
cept of the State, of its essence, of its tasks, of its aims. 
For Fascism the State is an Absolute in regard to which 
individuals and groups are relative. Individuals and 
groups are ' thinkable ' only in so far as they are within 
the State. A liberal State does not direct the play and 
the material and spiritual development of the community 
but merely registers the results, whereas the Fascist State 
has its own comprehension of these things, its own will, 
and for this reason it is called * ethical/ " 

Here we have, frankly put, the fundamental distinction 
between the function of the Press in a totalitarian State 
and its functions in countries where individual freedom is 
still looked upon as a good in itself. "For Fascism the 


State is an Absolute." If this doctrine were of Italian 
origin it might be taken as an interesting contribution by 
an Italian mind to the practical treatment of one of the 
major problems of social and political organisation. But 
it is not Italian, it is German. Whatever coherence the 
political thought of Mussolini may possess is derived, at 
one or two removes, from the German philosopher Hegel, 
whose view of the State, and of the Prussian State in par- 
ticular, was laid down in uncompromising terms more than 
a century ago. It was from Hegel that Friedrich Engels 
and Karl Marx derived not a few of the notions which 
inspired their conception of the Communist State ; and 
from Marx and Engels the French apostle of syndicalism, 
Georges Sorel, first took his doctrine of syndicalist 
violence as a means of social and political transformation 
before he retraced it to its fountain head in Hegel and 
drank deep at that poisoned spring. Mussolini, in his 
turn, took the noxious doctrine from Sorel. Now Hegel 
declared in his Philosophy of History that the State is a 
working model of the Absolute, an embodiment of the 
44 Idea," that is to say, of the Reality behind phenomena. 
The conscious beings who live under the shadow of this 
model of the Absolute have, in Hegel's eyes, just as much 
or as little title to independent consideration as the cells 
of the human body. " The State," Hegel says, '" is the 
Divine Idea as it exists on earth " ; for " all the worth 
which the human being possesses, all spiritual reality, he 
possesses only through the State." And again : " The 
State is an end in itself. It is the ultimate end which has 
the highest right against the individual, whose highest 
duty is to be a member of the State." 

This teaching is an antithesis of the liberal and, 
indeed, of the Christian outlook upon life, for both 
assign superior value to the human personality, which 
the liberal outlook considers the primary and indis- 
pensable element in a community of free and responsible 
human beings, while the Christian doctrine looks upon 


it as the repository of an immortal soul. Of social and 
political freedom a free Press is at once the expression 
and the guardian; but under a political system which 
treats the individual as subject in all things to the will of 
an Absolute State, expressed by the dictates of an 
absolute Leader, a free Press and free journalism can 
have no warrant or justification. 

Nor does the matter end here. It reaches down to 
the very foundations of the philosophy of freedom. In 
free countries it is not and cannot be the business even 
of what are sometimes called " responsible " journalists 
merely to echo the views of a Government or to observe 
the reticence which statesmen impose upon themselves 
or believe to be due to the positions they hold. If 
support be given by independent journals to statesmen 
in office it should be given voluntarily and with an 
individual conviction that those statesmen are to the 
best of their ability serving the welfare of the community. 

A classical definition of the difference between the 
duties of a free Press and the duties of statesmen is to be 
found in the two famous leading articles which Robert 
Lowe (afterwards Lord Sherbrooke) wrote for The Times 
under Delane's editorship on February 6 and 7, 1852. 
In December, 1851, Louis Napoleon, President of the 
French Republic, had carried out the coup d'etat which 
was to make him Emperor of the French; and Lord 
Palmerston, then Foreign Secretary in Lord John 
Russell's Administration, expressed on behalf of Great 
Britain his approval of the accomplished fact without 
consulting his colleagues or informing the Queen. The 
Times thundered against him and Louis Napoleon. 
" So irritated and annoyed " was Louis Napoleon by the 
language of The Times that British Ministers who 
thought it desirable to stand well with him had to try to 
stop its mouth. Meanwhile Palmerston's high-handed 


acceptance of the French coup d^tat brought about his 
dismissal. The Queen protested energetically against 
his behaviour, the Prime Minister declined to accept 
Palmerston's explanations, and Lord Granville was 
appointed to the Foreign Office in Palmerston's stead. 
Some two months later the whole Russell Administration 
fell. Meanwhile Lord Derby, who was to succeed 
Lord John Russell as Prime Minister, took occasion 
(in a debate on the Address in reply to a Speech from 
the Throne) to lecture The Times for its outspoken 
language and to claim that " as in these days the English 
Press aspires to share the influence of statesmen, so also 
must it share in the responsibilities of statesmen." 

As an independent journalist Delane felt he could 
not let this doctrine pass unchallenged. He instructed 
Robert Lowe to refute it and to expound the principles 
that govern both the freedom of the Press and the duty 
of journalists in a free community. Lowe did this with 
insight and vigour. Taking up Lord Derby's proposition 
that a Press which aspires to share the influence of 
statesmen must also share in the responsibilities of 
statesmen, he wrote in The Times of February 6, 1852: 

If the first of these propositions be established, the second 
follows as a matter of course; and we, of all men, are the 
ieast disposed to lower the proper functions or to deny the 
responsibilities and the power we may derive from the 
confidence of the public. But, be that power more or less, 
we cannot admit that its purpose is to share the labours of 
statesmanship, or that it is bound by the same limitations, 
the same duties, the same liabilities as that of the Ministers 
of the Crown. The purposes and duties of the two powers 
are constantly separate, generally independent, sometimes 
diametrically opposite. The dignity and the freedom of 
the Press are trammelled from the moment it accepts an 
ancillary position. To perform its duties with entire 
independence, and consequently with the utmost public 
advantage, the Press can enter into no close or binding 
alliances with the statesmen of the day, nor can it surrendei 


its permanent interests to the convenience of the ephemeral 
power of any Government. 

The first duty of the Press is to obtain the earliest and 
most correct intelligence of the events of the time, and 
instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common 
property of the nation. The statesman collects his in- 
formation secretly and by secret means ; he keeps back even 
the current intelligence of the day with ludicrous pre- 
cautions, until diplomacy is beaten in the race with publicity. 
The Press lives by disclosures; whatever passes into its 
keeping becomes a part of the knowledge and the history 
of our times; it is daily and forever appealing to the 
enlightened force of public opinion anticipating if possible 
the march of events standing upon the breach between 
the present and the future, and extending its survey to the 
horizon of the world. The statesman's duty is precisely 
the reverse. He cautiously guards from the public eye the 
information by which his actions and opinions are regu- 
lated; he reserves his judgment of passing events till the 
latest moment, and then he records it in obscure or con- 
ventional language; he strictly confines himself, if he be 
wise, to the practical interests of his own country, or to 
those turning immediately upon it; he hazards no rash 
surmises as to the future; and he concentrates in his own 
transactions all that power which the Press seeks to diffuse 
over the world. The duty of the one is to speak ; of the 
other to be silent. The one explains itself in discussion ; 
the other tends to action. The one deals mainly with rights 
and interests; the other with opinions and sentiments; the 
former is necessarily reserved, the litter essentially free 

It follows, therefore, from this contrast that the responsi- 
bilities of the two powers are as much at variance as their 
duties. For us, with whom publicity and truth are the air 
and light of existence, there can be no greater disgrace than 
to recoil from the frank and accurate disclosure of facts as 
they are. We are bound to tell the truth as we find it, 
without fear of consequences to lend no convenient 
shelter to acts of injustice and oppression, but to consign 
them at once to the judgment of the world. ... If the 
public writer shares in any degree the influence of the 


statesman, he shares at least few of those personal objects 
which constitute so large a part of ordinary statesmanship. 
. . . Even the triumph of his opinions is not accompanied 
by the applause of a party or the success of a struggle for 
patronage and power. Those opinions which he has 
defined, and, so to speak, created, slip from him in the 
moment of their triumph, and take their stand amonp 
established truths. The responsibility he really shares is 
more nearly akin to that of the economist or the lawyer 
whose province is not to frame a system of convenient 
application to the exigencies of the day but to investigate 
truth and to apply it on fixed principles to the affairs of the 

The responsibility we acknowledge has therefore little 
in common with that of statesmen, for it is estimated by a 
totally different standard of rectitude and duty. . . . The 
Press owes its first duty to the national interests which it 
represents, but nothing is indifferent to it which affects the 
cause of civilisation throughout the world. The Press of 
England, standing as it now does, alone in the enjoyment 
of entire freedom, would grievously neglect its exalted 
privileges if it failed to recollect how much is due to the 
common interest of Europe. It may suit the purposes of 
statesmen to veil the statue of Liberty, and to mutter some 
formulary of disingenuous acquiescence in foreign wrongs, 
dictated by their fears rather than by their convictions ; 
but we prefer to await for our justification the day when the 
entombed and oppressed liberties of Europe shall once more 
start into life and array themselves under the standard to 
which we cling. For to what, after all, are the statesmen 
of England to look for strength and national power, if 
injuries and offences rise against us, but to 
resolution of the people of England to i 
on which our own polity and independj 

It would not be amiss if the Pre| 
of England should to-day reflect 
\vhich The Times so firmly aske 
Many things in Europe and the j 
gone so sorely awry during the pal 
journals of the British Press had 


the principles which The Times then laid down. And 
having enunciated these principles in one leading article 
The Times went on next day to work them out and to 
apply them to the situation which Louis Napoleon had 
created in France. (Mutatis mutandis more than one 
passage in its reasoning is applicable at this moment to 
the peoples of Italy and Germany.) 

On February 7, 1852, The Times therefore wrote as 
follows : 

The ends which a really patriotic and enlightened journal 
should have in view are, we conceive, absolutely identical 
with the ends of an enlightened and patriotic Minister, but 
the means by which the journal and the Minister work out 
these ends, and the conditions under which they work, 
are essentially and widely different. The statesman in 
opposition must speak as one prepared to take office; the 
statesman in office must speak as one prepared to act. A 
pledge or a despatch with them is something more than an 
argument or an essay it is a measure. Undertaking not 
so much the investigation of political problems as the 
conduct of political affairs, they are necessarily not so much 
seekers after truth as expediency. The Press, on the other 
hand, has no practical function; it works out the ends it 
has in view by argument and discussion alone, and, being 
perfectly unconnected with administrative or executive 
duties, may and must roam at free will over topics which 
men of political action dare not touch. . . . Government 
must treat other Governments with external respect, how- 
ever black their origin or foui their deeds; but happily 
the Press is under no such trammels, and, while diplomatists 
are exchanging courtesies, can unmask the mean heart that 
beats beneath a star, or point out the bloodstains on the 
hand which grasps a sceptre. The duty of the journalist is 
the same as that of the historian to seek out truth, above 
all things, and to present to his readers not such things as 
statecraft would wish them to know but the truth as near as 
he can attain it. ... To require, then, the journalist and 
the statesman to conform to the same rules is to mix up 
things essentially different, and is as unsound in theory as 


unheard-of in practice. . . . The Press does not, as Lord 
Derby says, aspire to exercise the influence of statesmen, 
but its own, and reserves that respect which Lord Derby 
is content to profess for a sanguinary and unscrupulous 
despotism for something more respectable than absolute 
power and brute force. . . . Yet, in discussing French 
politics, we have never assumed a tone so offensive as that 
which the Earl of Derby has introduced into his homily. 
We have never said that for the last 60 years the Govern- 
ment of France has been a succession of usurpations of one 
kind or another, and then contradicted ourselves and 
libelled our neighbours by stating that these usurpations 
were, one and all, the deliberate choice of the nation or, 
still worse, that the extraordinary powers of the French 
President have been conferred upon him by the almost 
unanimous expression of the public opinion of France. Such 
statements are indeed insulting to French honour and 
nationality. Those who make them and believe them treat 
the gallant French nation as a race of slaves, barely com- 
petent for th choice of the tyrant who is to trample upon 

For " the French President " read " Mussolini " or 
"Hitler/' and the argument of The Times in 1852 
becomes applicable to the Italian and German peoples 
in this second quarter of the twentieth century. And a 
comparison between the language of the leading British 
journals upon the " foul deeds " that have marked the 
establishment of the Italian Fascist and German Nazi 
despotisms with the language of The Times in 1852 does 
not redound to the credit or the honour of the English 
Press to-day. Too often, if not constantly, the pro- 
prietors and editors of our leading journals with the 
honourable exceptions of one or two great provincial 
newspapers have hugged to their souls the flattering 
unction and the fallacious doctrine of Lord Derby that 
" as in these days the English Press aspires to share the 
influence of statesmen, so also must it share in the 
responsibilities of statesmen." If this doctrine be 


accepted thfere can be no reason for British journalists 
to cavil at the demand put forward by Herr Hitler in 
February and March, 1938, that in the interest of satis- 
factory relations between Nazi Germany and Great 
Britain, the British Government must control the British 
Press and prevent it from publishing news or views 
unwelcome to the German Dictator. The British Press 
as a whole would have been in a far stronger position to 
repudiate these suggestions with the contempt they merit 
had it never sacrificed its own freedom to a mistaken 
notion that it must " share the responsibilities of states- 
men." Its first duty is to the public, not to any Minister 
or Government who may at a given moment be in office. 
To think or to act otherwise is to enter a half-way house 
on the downward way from the freedom to a totalitarian 
enslavement of the Press. 

At bottom the issue at stake is that between liberal 
and despotic conceptions of political life, ^between that 
of responsible individual freedom among the members 
of a free community who look upon " the State "as the 
sum total of the executive functions which they delegate 
to Ministers and executive departments, and a Fascist or 
Nazi totalitarian conception of the State as " an 
Absolute," an end in itself, a semi-divine agency of 
government to which the community and all individual 
members of the community are and must be subordinate, 
Once the totalitarian concept is accepted or even toyed 
with, the enslavement, total or partial, of the Press 
follows inevitably. Conversely, the only sure safeguard 
of journalistic freedom is to reject the entire totalitarian 
concept and to affirm the intrinsic superiority of a 
community of free citizens who, instructed by a fearless 
and upright Press, can voluntarily attain a higher degree 
of elastic efficiency than is within the reach of any 
absolutist dictatorship. It would seem that British 
journalists, like British statesmen, sadly need a little 
schooling in the elements of political philosophy. 



EARLY in the year 1895 a controversy arose in France 
upon the best constitutional means of safeguarding public 
liberties and of combining the essentials of freedom with 
stable institutions. A President of the Republic had 
resigned because he alleged that the French Constitution 
gave him inadequate powers to act as the supreme 
moderator of national affairs. At that moment an 
eminent historian, Professor Charles Seignobos of the 
Sorbonne, published in the Revue dc Paris a study upon 
Montesquieu's famous theory of the " separation of 
powers " in the State as a safeguard of freedom. He 
traced its history and showed how far the notions of 
Montesquieu were fallacious, and what the experience of 
the nineteenth century had proved to be the true safe- 
guards of public liberties. Even to-day the study has 
some bearing upon the problem presented by the 
" Newspaper Industry," for it raises points that need to 
be fairly met. 

Montesquieu formulated the theory of the separation 
of powers in the chapter of his Esprit des Lois " On The 
English Constitution." The idea itself was not quite 
new. Locke as well as Swift and Bolingbroke had dis- 
tinguished between the various powers in the State and 
the two latter had spoken of a " balance of power " which 
would prevent either of them from becoming predomi- 
nant. But, Seignobos argued, civilised societies had been 
transformed so rapidly in the nineteenth century " by the 
progress of science, of material production, of education 



and the Press, that they have tended to burst the political 
institutions with which former Governments clothed 
them " ; and after an acute analysis of the fate of Mon- 
tesquieu's theory that the executive, legislative and 
judicial tfc powers " should be rigidly separated from each 
other Seignobos concluded: 

Against the authoritarian tendency of all executive 
agents, against abuses of power on the part of officials and 
even against the intrigues of legislative assemblies, the 
history of the nineteenth century reveals only two effective 
means cf resistance. Both have been born in this century 
and could not be foreseen by Montesquieu. 

The one is a people politically educated, accustomed to 
precise information, demanding much of its representatives, 
obliging them to render account of what they do, and to 
take account of the people's will, but resolved to support 
them, if need be, against the Government and by every 

The other is an active Press, informed of everything, 
determined to search out, to publish, to criticise all the 
<iomgs of men in power, a Press too independent of ail 
officials and even of judges to have silence imposed upon it, 
and too rich or too numerous to be altogether corruptible. 

With such a people and such a Press a State would be 
guaranteed against all kinds of despotism. 

If Montesquieu could not foresee the changes that 
would ccme over the public life of civilised societies in the 
nineteenth century, none but a prophet could have 
descried in 1895 the conditions that would arise in 
Europe during the third and fourth decades of the 
twentieth century. When Seignobos defined, as one of 
the safeguards of public freedom, a Press too rich or too 
numerous to be altogether corruptible, he failed to 
foresee the possibility that economic and financial in- 
fluences might so reduce the number of newspapers as to 
give the owners of surviving journals a virtual monopoly, 
or that the financial magnitude if not the actual wealth 


of these journals might curtail their independence and act 
as a drag upon the faithful discharge of their stewardship 
for public freedom. 

In France the Press cannot be said to have preserved 
its independence of influences, official and industrial, to 
such an extent as to render it a bulwark of public liberties 
or a constant purveyor of precise information. Nor 
have the majority of French journals gained, in the recent 
past, a reputation for sturdy incorruptibility. But in 
France it is still possible for any citizen who is ready to 
risk the loss of a few thousand pounds to start at least a 
k4 journal of opinion " and to find for it eager readers who 
will welcome its independent criticism of men and things. 
In this country we have no similar safeguard. The 
amount of money to be risked in starting a daily news- 
paper with any hope of attracting serious attention or 
gaining a national circulation, would probably exceed 
1,000,000. The well-informed author of a series of 
articles upon " The Newspaper Industry," which 
appeared in The Economist during January, 1937, 
suggested that * a sum of the order of 2,000,000 had to 
be spent " before the last comer among national news- 
papers, the Daily Herald, " reached a self-supporting 
position. There are very few industries," he added, 
"' which impose an entrance fee as high as this." 

It was not always thus. When, after a preliminary 
experiment with what had been a bankrupt evening paper 
the Evening News, the late Alfred Harmsworth sUi^J 
his Daily Mail m the 'nineties of last century he neither 
disposed of nor spent upon his enterprise anything 
approaching even 100,000. According to one estimate 
it was less than 15,000. Moreover his venture made a 
profit from the outset. 

But some years later an attempt to found a London 
morning journal of a more " serious " type, the Tribune, 
cost its proprietor nearly 600,000. When the greater 
part of that sum had been spent he lost heart though, in 


the opinion of some shrewd judges, the paper was then 
on the point of making ends meet and of earning a profit. 
While it is conceivable that another journalist with the 
peculiar genius needed to establish a successful news- 
paper may at some future time catch the tide as Moses 
Levy caught it in the eighteen-fifties with the Daily 
Telegraph or as Alfred Harmsworth caught it in the 'nine- 
ties, it remains broadly true that nowadays the amount 
of money which would have to be risked in adding to the 
number of British daily newspapers is so large as to save 
present newspaper owners from fear of effectual 

Directly and indirectly, Alfred Harmsworth (or Lord 
Northcliffe) and his younger brother, Harold Harms- 
worth (afterwards Lord Rothermere) were responsible 
for the change that has come over the financing of British 
newspapers during the past generation. Their enter- 
prises, too, hastened, though they did not actually begin, 
the transformation of the Press into " the newspaper 
industry." I shall not attempt to record in figures all 
the transactions since the Daily Mail was taken over in 
1905, together with the Evening News and the Weekly 
Dispatch, by a company registered as " Associated 
Newspapers, Limited," and since the foundation in the 
same year of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development 
Company, Limited," by the Harmsworth interests. 
Rather shall I seek to illustrate the general tendency of 
jn^v/paper finance by these and subsequent examples, 
including the operations that attended the liquidation 
of the Northcliffe estate after Lord Northcliffe's death 
in August, 1922. There is no finality in such matters as 
buying and selling of newspapers. Statistics accurate 
to-day may be inaccurate to-morrow. But enough is 
publicly known and recorded to warrant a general de- 
scription of the tendencies at work and to justify doubt 
whether an undertaking so heavily capitalised and, in 
some instances, so over-capitalised as the British Press 


now is can be entirely free to discharge its mission as a 
warden of the public conscience. 

The beginning of the Harmsworth's venture into dailv 
journalism was marked by their purchase in 1894 of 
a London evening paper, the Evening News, for the 
sum of 25,000. This evening journal had been started 
in 1881; and though it had been heavily subsidised by 
Conservative party funds, it had got into such low 
water that its affairs had to be put into the hands of a 
receiver. A wide - awake though impecunious - - 
journalist, the late Mr. Kennedy Jones, is said to have 
received as a gift a packet of 12,000 worthless shares in 
the Evening News. Armed with them he attended a 
meeting of creditors and persuaded the receiver to 
grant him an option on the purchase of the paper. 
Then, so runs the story, he induced Alfred Harmsworth, 
who had made some profits out of a weekly magazine 
called Answers, which he had started in 1887, to provide 
the 25,000 to buy the Evening News which had cost 
its former proprietors the better part of 500,000 since 
its foundation. 

The paper bought, Alfred and Harold Harmsworth 
with Kennedy Jones began drastically to overhaul its 
finances. At that time it was printing 15 or 16 columns 
of racing and sporting news daily; while its principal 
rival, the Star, was printing even more. Alfred Harms- 
worth and his associates began by cutting down the 
racing news to six or seven columns and by broadening 
the paper's appeal in ways which they thought likely to 
attract popular attention. They were helped by a 
sensational murder; and thanks to their exploitation 
of public interest in it and to their promptness in 
publishing ahead of their rivals the result of the trial 
at the Chelmsford Assizes the circulation of the Evening 
News increased by 40,000 copies in a few months. At 
the end of the first year they found it had made a sub- 


stantial profit. Two years later they decided to risk 
this profit and some other capital in starting the Daily 

One episode in Alfred Harmsworth's handling of the 
Evening News is too amusing not to be related. He 
had instructed his sub-editors to brighten the paper 
inexpensively by reprinting jokes and satirical para- 
graphs from American comic papers. One such para- 
graph referred to a mythical Jew on Broadway who 
was supposed to have condoled with another Jew upon 
a disastrous fire in his premises " last week," and to 
have expressed the hope that the premises were insured. 
" Not last week, you fool, next week ! " was the alleged 
answer. As ill-luck would have it a Jewish tradesman 
in Shoreditch, bearing the same name as that given to 
the mythical Jew in the American comic paper, had 
claimed insurance for a fire in his London premises. 
He promptly issued a writ for libel against the Evening 
News. In vain did Harmsworth protest that he was 
totally unaware of the British Jew's name and of the 
fact that the premises in Shoreditch had been burned. 
He had either to run the risk of a libel action or to 
compensate the plaintiff in cash. Harmsworth chose 
the latter course and paid 600 indemnity whereupon 
he received a grateful letter from the British Jew, who 
informed him that a small syndicate which had been 
formed to " run " the action against the Evening News 
would be giving a little dinner to celebrate its triumph 
and would be very happy if Mr. Alfred Harmsworth 
would attend it ! 

However small may have been the original capital 
of the Daily Mail, its profits were reinvested in the paper 
again and again until they were so large that its capital 
value could be fixed at more than 1,000,000 when 
it was taken over in 1905 by " Associated Newspapers 


Limited." At the end of the first year (1935) this 
Company piid 8 p^r cent, on its 1,603,033 shares, 
10 per cent, from 1939 to 1910, 12 p3r cent, from 1911 
to 1913, 17 psr cent, in 1914, and as much as 23 psr cent, 
from 1918 to 1920. In September, 1920, there was, 
besides a distribution of 250,033 in bonus shares, one 
new share for every two deferred ordinary shares 
previously held, and a dividend of 5 per cent, free of 
tax was paid on the enlarged capital. 

Thus in ths sixteen years of the Company's existence 
the profits of an original deferred ordinary share 
{which alone had full voting power) amounted to 
207 per cent., while the nominal value of the shares 
had increased 50 per cent. Of the 750,030 deferred 
ordinary shares, 441,000 belonged to the Harmsworth 
family m June, 1921. 

In the same year as the foundation of " Associated 
Newspapers Limited " the Anglo-Newfoundland 
Development Company Limited was formed to acquire 
large tracks of forest (3,400 square miles in all) for 
the purpose of manufacturing paper, the bulk of the 
share capital being held by the other Harmsworth 
companies which were thus assured of a continuous 
supply of " newsprint " independently of paper mer- 
chants. Four years later they set up the Imperial Paper 
Mills Limited at Gravesend with extensive wharfage at 
which steamers, bringing the wood pulp from Newfound- 
land, could bsrth. Within ten years the output of this 
mill was 600 tons of paper per week. 

In this company the Amalgamated Press Limited 
held a controlling interest. The Amalgamated Press 
began with Alfred Harmsworth's Answers, was registered 
in 1896 as " Harmsworth Brothers Limited." and 
gradually increased its publications until it controlled 
some seventy-five weekly and monthly periodicals. Its 
paid-up capital was 1,065,000 made up of 515,000 
ordinary shares, which alone had voting rights, and 


550,000 5 per cent, cumulative preference shares. At 
the end of 1913 there was a distribution of bonus shares 
at the rate of three ordinary shares for every ten ordinary 
shares previously held. Very high dividends were paid 
on the ordinary shares for the twenty years between 
1901-2 to 1920-21. The lowest was 35 per cent, in 
1903-4; in every other year the dividend was 40 per 
cent, exclusive of the bonus shares issued in 1913. 
For some years after 1918 half the dividend was tax- 
free. This made the actual dividend equal to more 
than 48 per cent. Indeed this Company's total profits 
in the nine years from 1913 to 1921 were 4,142,190. 
or nearly four times the original capital of l,065 f OOO, 

After the death of Alfred Harmsworth (Lord North- 
chffe) in August, 1922, his holdings in his various 
newspaper companies were liquidated, or were taken 
over mainly by his brother, Harold Harmsworth (Lord 
Rothermere). In 1926 the Amalgamated Press passed 
under the control of the Berry Brothers with Sir William 
Berry (Lord Camrose) at their head. Its issued capital 
is now some 7,200,000, including 1,500,000 of 3-J per 
cent. 1st Mortgage Debenture Stock. It continued to 
make large profits and to pay high dividends on its 
1,200,000 of ordinary share capital, though the practice 
of issuing bonus shares seems to have been dropped 
under Lord Camrose's management. In 1931 its profits 
were 706,507 and the dividend earned on its ordinary 
capital was 37.7 per cent. Of this percentage only 
15 per cent, was paid to shareholders, a large balance 
being put to general reserve. During the years 1932 to 
1937 the earned dividends were only once below 20 per 
cent., the dividends actually paid to shareholders being, 
however, limited to 11 per cent. 

In addition to its ownership of more than one hundred 
magazines and other publications, the Amalgamated 
Press controlled two large papermaking companies 
which provided nearly all the paper used by its publica- ( 


tions as well as newsprint for several of the leading 
London and provincial newspapers. 

If the profit-making of the Amalgamated Press under 
Lord Camrose's management was thus controlled in 
somewhat conservative fashion, its earlier record in 
money-making was beaten by that of another Harms- 
worth company which was formed in 1910. This was 
known as " The Pictorial Newspaper Company 
Limited." It took over the Daily Mirror which Harold 
Harmsworth had acquired from his brother Alfred in 
1914. In 1915 it started the Sunday Pictorial as a 
Rothermere venture ; and in March 1920 the Company 
was reconstructed as " Daily Mirror Newspapers 
Limited." From 1911 to 1914 the dividend on the 
100,000 deferred ordinary shares of the Pictorial News- 
paper Company Limited ranged from 15 per cent, to 
20 per cent., but from 1915 to 1919 they were 60 per cent. 
In the year 1919-1920 the dividend was 55 per cent, free 
of tax. Upon reconstruction in March, 1920, the holders 
of 5 per cent, preference shares in the old company 
received a new 8 per cent, share in exchange; for each 
7 per cent, preference share a new 8 per cent, share 
plus 2s. 6d. in cash. The holders of the 100,000 deferred 
shares received seven new ordinary shares for each 
deferred share. On these a dividend of 5 per cent, was 
paid, with a further distribution of dividends from the 
Sunday Pictorial, which became a separate company 
after the reconstruction. The holder of a deferred share 
from 1910 onwards thus received 450 per cent, of his 
investment and the nominal value of his -holding was 
multiplied by seven. 

In 1908 Lord Northcliffe acquired a large financial 
interest in The Times. The complicated ownership of 
that great journal a result of the first John Walter's 
division of the property into sixteenths as something 


still based upon the agreement which had been concluded 
with the Walters in 1908 that he should dispose of the 
voting power of the Walter holding. In return for this 
agreement, and in order to safeguard the traditional 
Walter interest in The Times, Northcliffe undertook that 
on his death the head of the Walter family should be 
entitled to buy back the Northcliffe shares at par or at a 
price to be fixed by arbitration on the basis of the last 
three years' dividends on the ordinary shares. As there 
had been no dividends on ordinary shares for some years, 
this arrangement had it lasted would have enabled 
Mr. John Walter IV to buy the Northcliffe holding at 
not more than par after Northcliffe's death in August, 
1922. But in June, 1922, Mr. John Walter sold to 
Northcliffe all the Walter shares in The Times, a trans- 
action which nullified the previous agreement ; and 
the only prospective interest which Mr. John Walter 
retained in the future of The Times was a clause in 
Northcliffe's will to the effect that Mr. Walter should 
have an option to buy Northcliffe's entire holding in 
The Times at whatever price the highest bidder might 

On Northcbffe's death it became a matter of im- 
portance to know what the highest bid would be, Lord 
Rothermere was still eager to buy The Times, and others 
were equally eager that he should not buy it. His 
representatives conveyed the impression that he would 
bid up to 1,000,000 for his late brother's holding but 
not more a price more than double the amount Mr. 
John Walter would have needed to raise had he not sold 
his shares to Northcliffe two months earlier. But when 
the sale under Northcliffe's will came before a Judge in 
Chambers, it was found that Lord Rothermere's bid was 
at least one-third higher than 1,000,000. This con- 
tingency had been foreseen ; and Major the Hon. John 
Jacob Astor authorised Mr. Walter's representatives to 
equal the Rothermere bid. 


Thus the control of The Times passed into the hands of 
Major Astor, who presently formed a holding company 
with a special charter designed to prevent the future sale 
of The Times to any purchaser save with the assent of a 
body of trustees consisting of the Lord Chief Justice of 
England ; the Warden of All Souls College, Oxford ; the 
Governor of the Bank of England ; the President of the 
Royal Society and the President of the Institute of Char- 
tered Accountants. Under this Charter shareholders in 
The Times can only sell their holdings unconditionally to 
Major Astor or to Mr. John Walter, all other sales being 
subject to the assent of the trustees. In this way it was 
hoped to remove the danger that The Times might fall 
into the hands of purchasers whom the trustees might 
think undesirable. 

Admirably designed though this arrangement appears 
to be as a means of safeguarding the future independence 
of the leading British newspaper, there is some danger 
that it may tend subtly to deaden the militant spirit which 
characterised The Times under its great editors, Barnes 
and Delane, and may lead its staff to think themselves 
caretakers of a national institution rather than journal- 
ists whose paper must stand or fall on its or their 
merits. No charter could avail to preserve the influence 
and the value of The Times, even as a national institu- 
tion, were it to lag behind in the journalistic race or to be 
worsted either in respect of dynamic quality or in sound- 
ness of policy by rivals which appeal to the same public. 
At its price of 2d., and with a circulation of roughly 
200,000 copies, The Times has now to face the com- 
petition of the Daily Telegraph and Morning Post at the 
price of Id. and with a circulation of more than 650,000 
copies. Should the Daily Telegraph develop a sturdy 
" soul " of its own and during the international crisis 
of September, 1938, its " soul " compared very favour- 
ably with that of The Times as distinguished from 
newspaper-making ability, The Times might need to 


invoke the shade of Thomas Barnes or, perhaps, even 
that of Northcliffe, in order to hold its ground. 

After being defeated a second time in his attempt to 
buy The Times, Lord Rothermere turned his attention 
to his late brother's other newspaper properties. In 
September, 1922, the following announcement was 
issued : 

The late Lord Northcliffe, who held the majority of the 
deferred shares in Associated Newspapers, Limited, was 
thereby the principal proprietor of the Daily Mail, Evening 
Nens, Weekly Dispatch and Overseas Mail. The 400,000 
deferred shares which he held have now come under the 
control of his brother, Viscount Rothermere. 

The 400,000 deferred ordinary shares, in which the 
control of these newspapers was vested, were bought 
by Lord Rothermere at 4 each for a total of 1 ,600,000. 
Thereupon Lord Rothermere formed " The Daily Mail 
Trust," which acquired from him these 400,000 shares in 
return for ordinary shares of the Trust. The capital of 
the Trust was fixed at 1,600,000 in ordinary shares of 
1 each, of which 2s. per share, or 160,000, was paid up. 
The " Daily Mail Trust " also created 1,600,000 of 7 per 
cent. Guaranteed fifteen-year first mortgage debenture 
stock. This stock was heavily advertised, offered to and 
subscribed for by the public at 99 per cent. In other 
words, the public provided 11,440,000 of the 1,600,000 
required to pay for Lord Northcliffe's shares, and Lord 
Rothermere and his friends paid only 160,000 for their 
shares though these shares entitled them to the whole 
of the equity in the 400,000 Associated Newspaper 
shares after 7 per cent, had been paid on the debentures. 

At that time the total number of deferred shares in 
Associated Newspapers Limited was 750,000; and after 
payment of the preference and ordinary dividends 
(67,000) more than one-half of the profit of Associated 


Newspapers belonged to the " Daily Mail Trust." In 
the year 1922-23 the profits of Associated Newspapers 
were 680,209 as compared with 224,123 in 1921-22, 
so that the " Daily Mail Trust's " portion of the profits 
was about 360,000, of which the interest on its 7 per 
cent, debentures absorbed only 112,000. The dividend 
actually declared was 35 per cent., and a capital bonus 
of 33} per cent, was given, yielding to the Trust 140,000 
in cash and 133,333 in bonus capital in the year of the 
debenture issue. 

In 1923-24 the profit of the tk Daily Mail Trust " was 
910,408. The dividend was raised to 40 per cent, 
and two more capital bonuses of 25 per cent, and 
20 per cent, respectively were paid. From these 
figures it would seem that while the public provided 
most of the money to buy the Northcliffe holding it got 
less than half, and Lord Rothermere and his friends (as 
holders of 160,000 in paid-up ordinary shares) more 
than half the profit. It is true that the public were 
given a " debenture " at 7 per cent., the " debenture " 
being secured upon the deferred shares of Associated 
Newspapers, the uncalled capital of the " Daily Mail 
Trust " and upon a guarantee from the Daily Mirror and 
Sunday Pictorial newspapers. But what the public was 
really given was a limited interest in a newspaper equity 
under the guise of a debenture, for a debenture on a 
newspaper company is not a debenture at all except in 
so far as its value is covered by physical assets, real 
property, such as machines, buildings or other realisable 
wealth. The rest is mainly a psychological asset called 
" goodwill " ; and it has been well said that newspaper 
finance is mainly a question of capitalising goodwill. 

Nor was this all. When dealings began in the deferred 
shares of Associated Newspapers Limited in November, 
1922 a month after the issue of the " Daily Mail 
Trust " debentures the opening price was 6 5s. per 
share, as compared with the 4 per share that Lord 


Rothermere had agreed to pay for them ; and the value 
of these shares was afterwards nearly doubled by the 
issue of a capital bonus amounting to more than 78 
per cent, of the original total. Besides, under Lord 
Rothermere's skilful financial management, the profits 
of Associated Newspapers continued to expand. In 
the year ended March 21, 1935, they were 917,046, 
and a 40 per cent, dividend was again paid on the 
deferred shares in which the " Daily Mail Trust's " 
holding had by that time become 800,000 instead of 

In the autumn of 1923 Lord Rothermere extended 
his operations. He bought the whole of the late Sir 
Edward Hulton's newspaper interests for 5,000,000. 
At the same time he sold to E. Hulton and Company 
the " Associated Scottish Newspapers " Lord Rother- 
mere's Scottish interests for 1,000.000. The " Daily 
Mail Trust " then appeared on the scene. It bought 
the Hulton Newspapers and the Rothermere Scottish 
papers for 6,000,000, and sold to Lord Beaverbrook 
for 250,000 a 51 per cent, interest in the Evening Standard, 
which Sir Edward Hulton had owned. Again the public 
subscribed the necessary money. The " Daily Mail 
Trust " issued to the public 8,000,000 of 7 per cent, 
debentures at the price of 99, enough to pay for these 
operations, and to redeem, at a premium of 10 per cent., 
the first " Daily Mail Trust " debenture issue of 
1,600,000. Meanwhile, as I have said, the "Daily 
Mail Trust " holding of Associated Newspaper deferred 
shares had risen to 800,000. It owned also 918,056 
ordinary shares in E. Hulton and Company and sundry 
other investments; and the only addition made to the 
Trust's ordinary paid-up capital was 40,000, which 
brought the total up to 200,000 at 2s. per share, the 
authorised capital being raised at the same time from 
1,600,0^0 to 2,500,000. Again the "debentures" 
were guaranteed by Lord Rothermere's two picture 


papers, and again the issue was heavily advertised and 
heavily oversubscribed. 

The " Daily Mail Trust " then proceeded to make a 
big profit on the Hulton operation. Early in 1924 the 
Trust sold to the Sunday Times owned by the Berry 
group the Manchester publications of the Hulton 
Company (excluding the Daily Sketch and the Illustrated 
Sunday Herald) for 5,500,000. Together with the 
250,000 received for Lord Beaverbrook's share of the 
Evening Standard, it thus made a profit of 750,000, 
plus the value of the Daily Sketch and the Illustrated 
Sundav Herald. With the proceeds the " Daily Mail 
Trust " repaid 4,000,000, or one half of its debentures, 
at 110. The Daily Sketch and the Illustrated Sunday 
Herald were then formed into a separate company which 
issued 1,600,000 of 6 per cent, debentures at 92 and, 
out of the proceeds, 1,200,000 were applied to the 
redemption of a further sum of " Daily Mail Trust " 
debentures. Thus the profit on the Hulton purchase 
was raised to 2,350,000, plus the whole of the equity 
in the Daily Sketch and Illustrated Sunday Herald. In 
these circumstances it is not surprising that the 2s. 
paid-up shares of the " Daily Mail Trust " were soon 
sold and bought on the Stock Exchange at over 50s. 

The later operations of the ** Daily Mail Trust " 
now called the " Daily Mail and General Trust Limited " 
are less easy to trace. In 1929 its net profits (after 
deduction of tax) were 387,822, a total never since 
exceeded; and its ordinary dividend was 17-J- per cent, 
tax free. In 1936 its net profits were 306,403, but it 
paid a tax-free dividend of 11J per cent, and distributed 
a' capital bonus of 10 per cent, in ordinary shares, or 
one share for every ten ordinary shares at the price 
of 50s. In 1932 it had also issued one share for every 
eight ordinary shares at the price of 25s., but in that 
year its net profits had fallen to 173,283 and its tax- 

free dividend to 8| per cent. The actual liability of its 
ordinary shareholders for calls upon capital authorised 
but not paid up is hard to determine because according 
to a Bankers Investment Guide the following bonuses 
in reduction of uncalled liability on partly-paid shares 
iiave been distributed: 275 per cent, in 1925, 33^ per 
cent, in 1926, 50 per cent in 1927 and 33^ per cent, 
in 1928. Seeing that only 2s. per share or 10 per cent, 
was originally paid-up on the ordinary capital of the 
Trust, it would seem that Lord Rothermere and his 
fellow-shareholders have been very handsomely rewarded 
for their venture in newspaper finance. 

Nor was Lord Rothermere alone in perceiving how 
profitable newspaper fc4 properties," as distinguished from 
journalism, could be. The sons of the late Alderman 
John Mathias Berry, of Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales 
usually known as the " Berry Group," of which 
Lord Camrose, formerly Sir William Berry, was the 
most prominent member were hardly less skilful than 
he. While the eldest of the Berry brothers was closely 
associated with the mining and other interests of the 
late Lord Rhondda, the second (now Lord Camrose) 
began life as a working journalist, and in 1901 founded 
the Advertising World. From 1915 onwards he became 
Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Times, and afterwards 
chairman or deputy chairman of several newspaper 
and publishing companies which the Berry interests 
controlled. These companies included the Sunday 
Times, the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph (which 
was bought from the late Lord Burnham and has since 
absorbed the Morning Post), the Graphic publications, 
Kelly's Directories and more than one printing com- 
pany, besides a number of provincial newspapers. 

After the Sunday Times, or the Berry Group, had 
thought the Hulton newspapers from the " Daily Mail 


Trust " for 5,500,000 it sold them, together with the 
copyright and goodwill of the Sunday Times, to a new 
company called " The Allied Newspapers Limited " 
for a total price of 7,900,000. Of this price 4,400,000 
was payable in cash, 1,500,000 in debenture stock and 
2,000,000 in ordinary shares. The capital of " Allied 
Newspapers Limited " was fixed at 2,000,000 ordinary 
shares, 4,750,000 of 8 per cent, cumulative preference 
shares, and 1,500,000 in 9 per cent, debentures. A 
commission of 7 per cent, in cash, together with 
510,000 ordinary shares, was payable to the firm which 
subscribed for the preference shares and sold them to 
the public. The profits of the various newspapers 
bought by " Allied Newspapers Limited," which were 
only 285,704 in 1919, were as high as 855,199 in 
1923. After some falling off in 1931 and 1932 they 
rose again to 721,367 in 1935 and to 742,525 in 1936. 
Meanwhile the Berry Group did another great stroke 
of business. It formed a Company called the fct Allied 
Northern Newspapers " to buy the whole of the capital 
of the Associated Scottish Newspapers which Lord 
Rothermere had sold to E. Huiton and Company. It 
also bought several newspaper interests in Scotland and 
Northern England for 2,042,000 in cash and 85,000 
in shares. The Company thereupon issued to the public 
2,300,000 of 6i per cent. First Mortgage Guarantee 
wc debentures " at 98 per cent, on the security of prefer- 
ence and ordinary shares and a second debenture. The 
total ordinary capital was 1,000,000 and the whole 
of it was issued to 4k Allied Newspapers Limited," with 
the exception of seven shares of the 85,000 already 
mentioned, in return for a guarantee of the interest and 
principal of the Debentures of tfc Allied ^Northern News- 
papers Limited." This guarantee of the parent company 
enhanced the value of the " Allied Northern News- 
papers " debentures. The average profits of the news- 
papers bought had not been so spectacular as to promise 

D 2 


large dividends after the interest on debentures had been 

The " Berry Group " acted as a unit until January, 
1937, when its various interests were divided under three 
controls. Lord Camrose kept the Daily Telegraph and 
Morning Post, the Financial Times and the Amalgamated 
Press. His brother, Lord Kemsley, took control of the 
group's provincial newspaper interests together with the 
Sunday Times and the Daily Sketch of London; and 
Lord Iliffc took the companies which publish Kelly's 
directories and a number of trade and technical period- 
icals. Thus the tk Berry Group," as such, ceased to 
exist, and its component parts stood alongside other 
44 groups " of newspaper interests, like the " Cadbury 
Group," which controls the News-Chronicle and the 
Star in London, the " Odhams Group," which owns a 
number of periodicals and controls the Daily Herald, and 
the u Beaverbrook Group," of which the Daily Express, 
the Sunday Express and the Evening Standard are the 
chief publications. The principal London and pro- 
vincial journals that are independent of " groups " are 
The Times, the Manchester Guardian, the Glasgow Herald 
and the Yorkshire Post, while four Sunday newspapers, 
including the Observer, are also independently owned. 
None of these papers has been the object, or the subject, 
of conspicuous 4t newspaper finance." 

Some twelve years ago I drew attention to the peculiar 
characteristics of newspaper finance in a study entitled 
" The Disease of the Press." This disease, as 1 see it, 
consists in the use of the Press as a source of pecuniary 
profit beyond the point needed to ensure the political, 
inoral and financial independence of journalism. 
Whether or not the public, who subscribe most of the 
money for the operations of newspaper financiers, burn 
their fingers or get cash to burn may be a matter of minor 
moment. If investors or speculators like to run the 


risk they would only have themselves to blame in the 
event of loss were it not for one consideration which 
bears upon the standing of the Press as a whole rather 
than upon the investments of individuals. This con- 
sideration is whether the vendors of newspaper shares 
and " debentures," who are at the same time newspaper 
proprietors with means of advertising their own issues 
of shares and stocks, are likely fully to discharge in 
regard to them the proper journalistic function of offering 
impartial criticism in the public interest. If this question 
cannot be answered affirmatively, it would seem that 
modern newspaper finance tends to afflict the Press and 
the public with a potential evil for which it is hard to 
foresee the cure. Of this evil there are several symptoms, 
some of which relate to methods of increasing the 
circulation of newspapers so that they may gain larger 
revenues from advertisements. But the most serious 
symptom, and the most menacing to the health of what 
Socialists call " capitalist society," may well be the 
reluctance of newspapers which are themselves units 
in vast money-making concerns to examine searching!}' 
the affairs of other money-making concerns and public 
companies that advertise reports of their annual meetings 
in the columns of those newspapers. The high rates 
paid for the publication of " company reports " by 
newspapers may quicken those newspapers' understand- 
ing of the proverb that they who live in glass houses 
should not throw stones. 

If it be argued that the distribution of newspaper 
shares among the investing public ought to act as a 
corrective to this state of things, inasmuch as it is a 
form of public ownership of public enterprises, the 
answer is that public ownership of shares in newspapers 
does not imply public control, since control is usually 
vested in a category of shares not largely held by the 
public. The real owners of newspapers are those who 
hold a majority of these controlling shares and, with 


them, the power of securing for themselves, directly and 
indirectly, a high proportion of the profits. Besides, 
ordinary investors whose holdings carry with them no 
power of control are apt to lock upon newspapers 
merely as business undertakings, and tacitly to approve 
of any policy that may seem likely to increase the 
market value of their holdings. If only for these 
reasons the public marketing of newspaper shares is not 
necessarily a healthy proceeding and may be very much 
the reverse. 

The problem of maintaining a healthy Press, financially 
and economically independent enough to enable it to 
withstand official or other interested pressure, would 
still be difficult if newspapers stood alone instead of 
being the pivots of a great industry. Nowadays the 
Press is the centre of a large number of co-ordinated 
industrial undertakings which are not exclusively con- 
trolled by men who look upon the production of news- 
papers as involving a moral stewardship for the public. 
Taken together with the production of periodicals, the 
"" newspaper industry " gives more employment than 
either brick-making or brewing and nearly as much 
as the spinning and weaving industries. In 1935 it 
ranked, as an employer of labour, above the heavy 
industries of shipbuilding and the smelting and rolling 
of iron and steel. In London Manchester and Glasgow 
it is now one of the most important of all industries; 
and so rapidly has it expanded that the numbers of 
people employed in it increased by more than 40 per 
cent, in the decade between 1921 and 1931, that is to 
say, from 56,488 to 79,458. These figures are inde- 
pendent of the paper-making or newsprint industry and 
of the 100,000 or more persons employed in distributing 
newspapers or in canvassing for subscribers. 

It stands to reason that the business men who manage 
or control interests of this magnitude can scarcely look 


upon journalism proper with the same respect as they 
would if their livelihood or their fortunes depended 
solely upon the skill and character of journalists. In 
what is becoming, if it has not already become, a 
" totalitarian " enterprise the tendency of the industrial 
magnates who control it is naturally to lump journalists 
together with the other personnel of the industry and to 
allow them just enough initiative and freedom to keep 
the public from perceiving that the Press is no longer 
free. Business men are apt to assess the importance of 
any item in their balance sheets by its actual cost; and 
the cost of original journalistic work in the production 
of a popular newspaper with a large circulation is hardly 
more than one-sixth of the whole outlay. The Report 
on The British Press, recently published by the group 
of investigators known as P.E.P. (Political and Economic 
Planning), compares the estimated balance sheets of two 
imaginary daily papers with the figures published by 
Lord Beaverbrook in September, 1937, for the Daily 
Express, and shows that its estimates were very near 
the mark. Taking the actual figures of the Daily Express 
it appears that (out of a total yearly outlay of 5,025,000) 
paper and ink cost 1,375,000, or nearly 36 per cent.; 
the wages of mechanical workers, 700,000, or 1 8 . 3 per 
cent. ; distribution (including railway charges), 650,000; 
and editorial expenses (including the cost of news), 
only 600,000. But there is nothing to show what 
proportion of these editorial expenses is actually paid 
to journalists in the form of salaries. 
far less than the cost of canvassing 
advertising the paper, which is put - 

Thus it will be seen that jou 
poor figure in a newspaper 

men may, therefore, be disposal fadj^r-^ma its 
value and to judge the work oflfawfoansls n0u$y fcom 
a "business" standpoint. A ' 

of their true vocation which, 


pronouncement by The Times on February 7, 1852, is 
" To seek out truth, above all things, and to present to 
readers not such things as statecraft would wish them 
to know but the truth, as near as they can attain to it " 
journalists trouble markets or offend statesmen or 
potentates whose favour the magnates of the newspaper 
industry may wish to cultivate or to retain, such 
journalists are likely to have a sense of their relative 
unimportance in the * 4 industry " duly impressed upon 

For the present condition of newspaper finance it 
is not easy to suggest a remedy. There is certainly no 
single remedy, no panacea. Even if all newspapers 
were placed under safeguards similar to those which 
Major the Hon. J. J. Astor instituted for the purpose of 
preserving The Times as a national institution the disease 
would not be cured. Sheltered seclusion from rough 
winds would not foster virility in the Press as a whole. 
The remedy or remedies may lie in other directions. 
One corrective may be found in British broadcasting, 
which brings the news, without advertisement, into 
millions of homes and, to that extent, gives a news 
service on cheaper terms and with a wider range than 
any newspaper can offer. Another remedy, painful but 
wholesome, may come through a gradual deflation of 
newspaper finance, and in the development of a type 
of newspaper, or news-letkr, appealing to a better- 
educated public, and independent of advertisers because 
more economically produced. But the chief remedy 
must come from leaders and trustworthy educators of 
public opinion. Public men are no longer quite at the 
mercy of the newspaper Press. They can speak to 
millions direct through the broadcasting microphone. 
They can help to build up standards of taste and 
judgment to which the pressure of public feeling would 
compel the controllers of newspapers to conform. No 


care can be too great and no safeguard too stringent 
to preserve the independence of broadcasting. In so 
far as the press prostitutes to the business of money- 
making its mission of instructing and educating the 
people, that mission should be carried on by other 
means. Care for their own pockets may then invigorate 
the consciences of newspaper proprietors. 

After all, the health of the public mind is at stake ; 
and it is of vital importance, in the true sense of that 
hackneyed term, that the mind of the community should 
not be subject to any preponderating control. The 
essence of democratic freedom is that there should be 
checks and balances to prevent lopsidedness of political 
and social influence. At present the influence exercised 
by the British press under the control of its financial 
magnates is not well balanced. Nor have those magnates 
always been shrewd even from the standpoint of their 
own interests. It is not merely that the conduct of their 
financial operations, the " watering " of their capital 
by bonus shares and other devices, have supplied 
Socialists and Communists with much ammunition for 
their campaign against capitalism, but that they have 
persistently encouraged or palliated methods of lawless 
violence abroad on the assumption that those methods 
were sanctified by being used, ostensibly, in defence 
of capital and property. The cbtuseness of " business 
minds " in matters of high public policy and of individual 
freedom can rarely have been more strikingly shown 
than in their shortsighted encouragement of violence 
abroad. From the writings they have authorised, and 
the policies they have recommended, it would be easy 
to glean an anthology of maxims to justify violent 
interference with their own properties if ever the 
pendulum of public feeling should swing against that 
44 capitalist system " which their financial practices 
have tended to discredit. 



WHEN and how did newspapers become newspapers? 
The answer is less simple and more interesting than it 
would be if it were given only in the shape of dates and 
bald facts. While 4t news " is as old as mankind, and 
its importance has always been recognised, the regular 
spreading of it in writing or print by journalists or, as 
they were called in the reign of Charles I, " diurnall- 
makers," is comparatively modern. " Journalism " in 
this sense, is an aspect of political freedom. ** News- 
letters," " news-books " or " dmrnals " were efforts to 
satisfy public curiosity upon matters of moment ; and it 
was soon found that they could only succeed if they gave 
information on a wide variety of topics. In 1725 a 
weekly journalist put the case aptly. " Our Taste for 
News is a very odd one," he wrote. " Yet it must be 
fed ; and tho' it seems a Jest to Foreigners, yet it is an 
Amusement we can't be without, and certainly rises from 
a Sense of Liberty, which inspires us with a Curiosity to 
know the Affairs of our Superiors in order to censure or 
applaud them as we see Cause." Have we not here the 
strongest argument for a free Press curiosity on the part 
of a community about public men and affairs in order 
to " censure or applaud " as cause may arise? 

The earliest form in which authoritative news was 
conveyed from the capital to the country was by Royal 
letters, sent out from London for general information. 
This was done centuries before the printing press came 
into action; and when private individuals first availed 



themselves of the printing press to circulate news the 
authorities at once stepped in. Royal letters announcing 
and describing the victories of Crcy and Agincourt or 
the defeat of Perkin Warbeck were one thing; encroach- 
ment on the Royal prerogative by the private printing 
and circulation of news was quite another. In the reign 
of Henry VIII this " abuse " had become so general that 
a Royal proclamation prohibited "certain books printed 
of newes of the prosperous successes of the King's 
Majesties arms in Scotland " and ordered them to be 
brought in and burned " within 24 houres after proclama- 
tion made on pain of imprisonment." None the less 
the " abuse " continued. Throughout the reign of 
Elizabeth the writers of news-letters became increasingly 
active. Their epistles were written and copied by hand ; 
and it was not until the reign of her successor, James I, 
was drawing to a close that the first Royal permission 
was given to print news from abroad. The printing of 
home news was forbidden. 

Gradually, as the public demand for information 
became more general, the written news-letters were over- 
shadowed by printed pamphlets called " news-books," 
which multiplied exceedingly under such names as 
" Mercuries," " Intelligences," " Relations," " Coran- 
tos," and " Gazettes." In the University of Oxford 
during the reign of Charles I the prayer was offered: 
ik Wee desire the Coranto-makers to be inspired with the 
Spirit of truth, that one may know when to praise Thy 
blessed and glorious name and when to pray unto Thee; 
for we often praise and Laude Thy Holy Name for the 
King of Sweden's victories and afterwards we heare that 
there is no such thing, and we oftentirae pray unto Thee 
to relieve the same King in his distresses, and we Like- 
wise heare that there is noe such Cause " (the King of 
Sweden being Gustavus Adolphus, the Protestant hero 
of the period). 

A less sanctimonious reflection upon journalistic 


accuracy was written by a Cavalier poet during the Civil 
War. At the beginning of the war the Royalist General 
most feared by Parliamentarians was Sir Ralph Hopton, 
the King's Lieu tenant-General of Horse in the West. 
Puritan " Coranto-makers " guessed that news of 
Hopton's death in battle would hearten their readers. 
So the " authors," that is to say the editors, of these 
44 Corantos " killed Hopton off twice or thrice without 
his being a penny the worse. Then a Cavalier 
rhymester wrote chaffingly : 

There Hopton was slain, again and again, 
Or else my author did lie. 

Despite a great increase in " news-books " during the 
Civil War, and the appearance of something like " news- 
papers " after the Restoration, the writers of individual 
news-letters continued to flourish throughout the 
seventeenth century. Foremost among them were Sir 
Roger L'Estrange and Henry Muddiman. So strong 
was the demand in the provinces for news from London 
that in order to cope with it a popular scribe, one 
Ichabod Dawks, began to issue news-letters so printed 
as to imitate handwriting. He assured his readers that 
44 this letter will be done upon good writing-paper " and 
44 will contain double the quantity of the written news " 
so that it can be 4< read with abundance more ease and 

Then, as now, the ease and pleasure of readers were 
not always the ease and pleasure of writers. If Macaulay 
is to be believed, the *' authors " of news-letters were 
busy men. V The news-writer," he says, " rambled from 
coffee-room to coffee-room collecting reports, squeezed 
himself into the Sessions Houses at the Old Bailey if there 
was an interesting trial, nay, perhaps obtained permission 
to the gallery in Whitehall and noticed how King and 
Duke looked. In this way he gathered materials for 
weekly epistles destined to enlighten some country town 


or some bench of rustic magistrates. Such were the 
sources from which the inhabitants of the largest pro- 
vincial cities, and the great body of the gentry and 
clergy, learned almost all they knew of the history of 
their own time " without being eager to pay for what 
they learned. As Ichabod Dawks found, subscribers 
to these news-letters were often loth either to pay their 
subscriptions or to defray the cost of postage. Addison, 
for his part, sneered comprehensively at readers as well 
as the writers of news-letters: " There is no Humour in 
my Countrymen, which I am more inclined to wonder 
at," he wrote, ik than their general Thirst after News. 
There are about half a Dozen ingenious Men, who live 
very plentifully upon this Curiosity of their fellow 
Subjects. . . . The Mind is kept in a perpetual Gape 
after knowledge, and punished with that burning Thirst, 
which is the Portion of our modern newsmongers and 
Coffee-house Politicians." Addison also marvelled that 
the public " read the Advertisements with the same 
Curiosity as the Articles of public News." 

The contempt, sincere or feigned, of Addison and 
others did not deter people from reading news-letters 
when they could. But when the practice of printing 
news became more general, news-letters took the form 
of " London letters " to the provincial Press, a form of 
journalism that still survives. Little by little, local 
gazettes and London newspapers replaced the news- 
letter and the news-book, though at first they only gave 
news from abroad. Domestic topics were too dangerous 
to be touched. So sharp was the supervision of the 
Press that despite the permission granted by James J, 
not a single news-sheet or newspaper seems to have been 
published for some years after the accession of Charles 1. 
But with the meeting of the Short Parliament in 1640 
" public opinion " could no longer be muzzled and the 
English newspaper system began to take shape. 

These newspapers were weeklies dailies were not yet 


thought of. Their contents were chiefly summaries of 
parliamentary proceedings. And in August, 1642, three 
months after Charles I had raised his standard against 
Parliament at Nottingham, the first true newspaper came 
into being. Regular English journalism began with the 
Civil War and the political strife that led up to it. From 
the outset it was vivacious and, on the whole, truthful. 
The public executions of prominent statesmen like 
Strafford, and incidents of the Civil War were chronicled 
m lively style. When Sir John Hotham was beheaded 
on Tower Hill for alleged treason to the Parliament a 
reporter described him as " seeming very much daunted, 
and his spirit somewhat fainty" until "his head went 
clean off at one chop." The execution of Charles I 
was more decorously recorded. The King's jest to 
*" one standing so near the Axe that his cloake touched 
it" was mentioned: "Sir, do you not hurt the Axe, 
though it may Me"; and there was something more 
than reticence in the observation that the King " pre- 
sently laid his head over the block, which was at one 
blow struck off by one in disguise, and taken up by 
another in disguise also, which he held up, and said 

In his booklet " The Press " to which I am indebted 
for some of these particulars the late Sir Alfred Robbins 
pointed out that whereas not one English newspaper 
existed at the accession of Charles I, the press had been 
begotten and had multiplied to a remarkable degree 
before his reign of less than 25 years came to an end. 
Still more noteworthy is it that every important feature 
of modern newspapers should have appeared in these 
first English journals. News, leading articles, adver- 
tisements and even pictures found a place in their 
pages. The " Intelligence Departments " of which 
modern newspapers are proud had their counterparts in 
news-letter and newspaper offices three centuries ago. 
After the Civil War had begun, war correspondence was 


naturally prominent; and there is a peculiarly modern 
flavour in the fact that specious " war-propaganda " was 
also employed. It took the form of a bogus newspaper 
purporting to be issued in the interests of the King but 
subtly supporting the cause of Parliament. And, most 
modern touch of all, the editor of a Cavalier newspaper 
denounced the employment of women reporters by his 
Puritan rivals whose "daughters write shorthand . . 
to furnish out the rayling Conventicle (with reports) hot 
from the Pulpit." At a time of fierce partisanship these 
reports, hot from Puritan pulpits, doubtless lacked 
nothing of vehemence. Nor was there much charity 
towards adversaries. A newspaper account of the 
execution of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, 
ran: " On Friday, the little Fireworke of Canterbury was 
extinguished upon Tower Hill. . . . His head was justly 
taken off. So farewell William of Canterbury." 

During the half century between the execution of 
Charles I and the death of William III the newspapers 
continued, under conditions frequently adverse, to 
develop upon what we should call modern lines. More 
and more space was given to advertisements. Lest 
contemporary advertisers think themselves ultra-modern 
it should be said that the advertisements were not less 
readable than the editorial matter. " Tables of Con- 
tents," and even an " Agony Column " were printed. 
Comic journals made their appearance. The standard 
of writing steadily improved. Few better s -ecimens of 
political argument upon public issues are to be found in 
the annals of English journalism than in the leading 
articles printed in London at the time of the Popish plot 
and the (Duke of York) Exclusion Bill between 1668 and 
1673. It was in these leading articles that the names of 
Whig and Tory were given to the two great parties in the 

Under William III evening papers began to appear. 
They gave sporting news, the results of horse races, and 


the betting odds. Proof that the more things change 
the less they vary is also furnished by newspaper reports 
that, in those days, stockbrokers caused crowding in the 
streets by persisting in making prices after the Stock 
Exchange had closed, and that the driver of a public 
vehicle, which had knocked down and killed a man, could 
not be traced because he had driven off so fast that his 
number could not be taken. Of these journals only one 
still survives the London Gazette. It was started while 
the Court was at Oxford during the Plague in the reign 
of Charles II as an authorised organ of the Court, and 
was then called the Oxford Gazette. After the Great Fire 
it was transferred to London and appeared twice weekly 
as the London Gazette, publishing news, advertisements, 
and Court and official announcements. The least 
" modern " feature of journalism in that period was that 
newspapers sometimes appeared with an empty half page 
either because there was not enough matter to fill the 
whole sheet or because the " author " (or editor) felt that 
the extreme heat justified him in taking a short holiday. 
It was not by accident that the first English newspapers 
took shape between 1640 and 1688, that is to say, during 
the troubled period covered by the rejgn of Charles I, 
the Commonwealth and the reigns of Charles II and 
James II, for at no time in English history had so many 
conflicting political ideas and passions filled the public 
mind, or had the essentials of political freedom been so 
fiercely debated. With the Revolution of 1688, the 
expulsion of James II and the accession of William and 
Mary, English political ideas began profoundly to 
influence the Continent of Europe. The movement of 
thought represented by Locke's essays on " Toleration " 
and " Concerning the Human Understanding " led, 
directly and indirectly, to the " Encyclopsedism " which 
was to culminate in the French Revolution of 1789 after 
having been responsible, in part, for the terms of the 
American Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. 


This movement of thought might not have spread and 
flourished without the constant discussion of funda- 
mental principles in English newspapers, nor could 
newspapers have carried on this discussion with anything 
approaching freedom unless Parliament had taken in 
1695 the significant step which Macaulay has recorded 
and described. 

For fifteen years after 1680 the Press had been 
shackled by the proclamation of Charles II " For 
Restraining the Printing of News Books and Pamphlets 
of News without leav." Chief Justice Scroggs had then 
given the ruling, as the spokesman of twelve fellow 
judges chosen by King Charles' Court, that it was crimi- 
nal at Common Law to publish any public news, 
whether true or false, without the King's licence, and that 
to " publish any newspaper whatever " was not only 
illegal but " showed a manifest intent to the breach of 
the peace." As a consequence the news-letter regained 
importance since news-books and newspapers were in 
constant danger of suppression, and their writers of 
physical punishment and imprisonment, For this 
reason Chief Justice Jeffreys of infamous memory sup- 
pressed coffee-houses that dealt in news-letters. Even 
under William III conditions improved little at first, for 
the doctrine enunciated by Scroggs is one to which men 
in uncontrolled authority are naturally prone. But in 
1695 there came, silently and unexpectedly, a stroke 
which freed the Press from legalised official interference 
except in time of war. As Macaulay wrote : " While 
the Abbey was hanging with black for the funeral of 
the Queen (Mary II) the Commons came to a vote, 
which at the time attracted little attention, which pro- 
duced no excitement, which has been left unnoticed by 
voluminous analysts, and of which the history can be 
but imperfectly traced in the Journals of the House, but 
which has done more for liberty and for civilisation than 
the Great Charter or the Bill of Rights. Early in the 

114 THE FKtbS 

session a Select Committee had been appointed to 
ascertain what temporary statutes were about to expire, 
and to consider which of those statutes it might be 
expedient to continue. The report was made and all the 
recommendations in the report were adopted, with one 
exception. Among the laws which the Committee 
thought it would be advisable to renew was the law which 
subjected the Press to a censorship. The question was 
put, ' that the House do agree with the Committee in 
the Resolution that the Act entitled an Act for preventing 
Abuses in printing seditious, treasonable and unlicensed 
pamphlets, and for regulating all Printing and Printing 
ftresses, be continued.' The Speaker pronounced that 
the Noes had it ; and the Ayes did not think fit to divide." 
From that moment the freedom of the Press was 
legally established in England, and with it a chance for 
the Press worthily to discharge its functions. Experi- 
ence of reaction under Charles II and James II had 
convinced a majority of the House of Commons that 
the dangers of freedom to print and to comment upon 
news could not outweigh the public advantages of such 
freedom. On the whole and despite some setbacks and 
lapses this conviction has governed English public life 
ever since. 

Within a few weeks of the freeing of the Press from 
censorship a number of newspapers of a fresher type 
came into existence and were more frequently published 
than before. On May 17, 1695, appeared the Flying 
Post, published thrice weekly. It was followed quickly 
by The English Courant^ the Post Boy and the Weekly 
Messenger, all of which were morning papers. One 
London paper even appeared three days running without 
special announcement, but then resumed its tri-weekly 
course. On Wednesday, March 11, 1702, however, 
the Daily Coumnt was published. It was the first 
English daily paper. It announced itself as being 


designed to give " all the material news as soon as every 
post arrives, and it is confined to half the compass to 
save the public at least half the impertinences of ordinary 
newspapers." It was issued appropriately at " Fleet 
Bridge," and it kept its promise well. Marlborough's 
victories in Flanders had whetted the public appetite for 
the latest news; and when he crushed the French at 
Ramillies in May, 1706, the Daily Courant printed at 
night a supplement to its usual morning issue giving 
intelligence from " An Express arnv'd this Evening." 
This piece of enterprise prompted a venture in evening 
journalism. Within two months the Evening Post, 
published at " Six at night," came into the field. 

The reign of Queen Anne was in many respects the 
springtime of British journalism. Though The Taller 
and The Spectator were reviews rather than newspapers, 
and the Daily Courant held its own for years as the 
one regular morning paper, public interest in printed 
news and views was vigorous enough to sustain a free 
Press. The Evening Courant appeared as a direct com- 
petitor to the Evening Post, and popular weekly news- 
papers, as distinct from weekly reviews filled with essays, 
established themselves. Among the editors of and 
contributors to these journals was Daniel Defoe. His 
Robinson Crusoe was serialised in the Weekly 
Journal or Saturday's Post and ran through 165 issues. 

Defoe had, indeed, helped to revive printed criticism 
of public affairs before the Press was exempted from 
censorship. He took his risks open-eyed, and was 
punished for his temerity by pillory, imprisonment and 
fine, but he set all public-spirited journalists an excellent 
example. Lest it be too readily followed, Walpole en- 
deavoured in the reign of George I to destroy the 
freedom of the Press and to corrupt newspapers. Though 
he had demanded for the Press unrestricted liberty as 
against the Crown and Parliament while he was in 
opposition, he claimed coercive power for Ministers as 


soon as he came into office. " The Ministers," he said, 
44 are sufficiently armed with authority. They possess 
the great sanction of rewards and punishments, the 
disposal of the privy purse, the grace of pardoning, 
and the power of condemning to the pillory every 
seditious writer." Walpole used all these agencies of 
intimidation and corruption. If he could not stop 
criticism entirely he succeeded in debasing the Press by 
evil influences that persisted until the end of the eight- 
eenth century. So usual did it become for journalists 
and newspaper owners to take Government subsidies 
that even John Walter I of The Times received 300 a 
year from the Treasury; and when the payment was 
suspended he demanded its renewal almost as a matter of 
right. Not until his son, John Walter II, became sole 
manager of that journal in 1803 and earned his father's 
displeasure by making it independent both financially and 
politically did English journalism begin to breathe a 
freer air again and freely to criticise the conduct of public 

Few safeguards of public welfare have been more 
hardly won or need to be more vigilantly preserved than 
that of " the freedom of the Press." It may be too much 
to ask of human nature, and of political human nature in 
particular, that it should welcome criticism or think 
opposition wholesome. To thr ears of men in power 
praise is grateful, never more grateful than when they 
are mistaken. Their supporters, and the " vested 
interests " they may represent, are apt to resent public 
censure. Journalists themselves find it pleasanter and 
more profitable to be well-received and well-looked-upon 
in ministerial circles than to be accused of taking Ishmael 
as their exemplar. Precisely in the degree in which they 
thus abdicate their functions as independent wardens of 
the public mind, they debase the Press and undermine 
its influence. " Schools of journalism " would do well 


to teach their students the history of the century-long 
struggle for the freedom of the Press, so that they might 
trace it through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 
and be on their guard against influences which to-day 
tend to curtail it. If conditions like those which pre- 
vailed in the early years of the reign of George III when 
judges were the ready instruments of the Government, 
and John Wilkes in the North Briton stood out against 
their servile venality are unlikely to recur, more insi- 
dious efforts to shackle or to muzzle the Press may have 
to be resisted and overcome in the present and the future. 
John Wilkes seemed to be fighting a lone fight. Yet his 
championship of public liberties made him the most 
popular man in the Kingdom. A like spirit was shown 
by " Junius " in his famous " Letters." Against it a 
rule of law was invented under George III, and remained 
nominally in existence until the reign of Queen Victoria, 
that the publisher of a journal should be criminally 
liable for any act of an employee without being given 
an opportunity to exculpate himself. An eminent 
lawyer, William Murray, Earl of Mansfield, laid down 
the doctrine that publishers were not entitled to trial by 
jury the main pledge of freedom for the Press and it 
took a greater contemporary lawyer, in the person of 
Charles Pratt, Earl of Camden, Lord Chancellor of 
England, to discredit and controvert this doctrine in 
1763. Camden was rightly hailed as one of the 4i main- 
tainers of English constitutional liberty " at a time when 
the House of Commons was full of pensioners and 
place-holders, and sorely needed to be chastened by a 
free Press. Again and again in the history of English 
freedom the Press has called Governments and Parlia- 
ments to order in the name of the community; and in 
so far as the Press continues to discharge this duty it will 
be acting in the spirit of Socrates who declared that " The 
sun might as easily be spared from the Universe as free 
speech from the liberal institutions of society." 



THERE is a subtle difference between the persuasive 
power of the written and of the printed word. Ben 
Jonson hit upon it when, in the reign of James I, he 
satirised a London printer, one Nathaniel Butter, in the 
words : " I am a printer, and a printer of news, and I 
do hearken after 'cm wherever they may te. . . . It is 
the printing of 'em makes 'em news to a great many, 
who ^culd indeed believe nothing but what's in print." 

Nathaniel Butter had so firm a belief in printed as 
against written news that he took advantage of the 
peimissicn given by James I to print news '" from 
abroad," and started the earliest systematic publication 
m England of what he described as " many admirable, 
strange, jcj-full and pitifull accident and passages " 
only to find the censor harsh and subscribers few. 
Though his pioneer spirit outran the conscious needs of 
the hour, he understood well enough that the public 
disposition to believe more readily what is printed than 
what is written or spoken gives the printing press a 
special sway over men's minds. 

The printing of newspapers is now, and has been for 
more than a century, a branch of the printer's craft 
distinct frcm the printing of books. A good part of 
the stay of newspapers lies in this process of differentia- 
tion. If the modern newspaper press is a child of 
mechanics, the mechanisation of printing was a response 
to a public demand for newspapers. As long as indi- 
vidual metal types had to be selected and arranged by 
hand in what are known as printers' "sticks," made up 



into columns which were inked by hand, and an im- 
pression taken from them on sheets of paper laid by 
hand and placed under flat presses likewise worked by 
hand, no newspaper could be produced quickly enough 
or m numbers sufficient to reach more than a small 
section of the public. Mechanical progress alone 
allowed the madern newspaper press to evolve; and the 
story of its evolution is very largely the story of enter- 
prise on the part of The Times newspaper. 

Up to the middle of last century, at all events, the 
history of newspaper printing is mainly the history of 
mechanical developments in the production of T/ie Times. 
Indeed, the special " Printing Number " which that 
journal published on October 29, 1929, went so far as to 
claim that " From the year 1784 until the present day 
all the chief improvements in the printing of newspapers 
have either been invented or first tried and fostered in 
what is now the office of The Times. Yet the man who 
started this unexampled story of progress happened upon 
printing almost by accident." Nor is this bold claim 
without warrant. There had, of course, been earlier 
newspapers, properly so-called, than The Times. The 
Morning Post was established in 1772, a good thirteen 
years before The Times; while, abroad, weekly and 
periodical gazettes had been printed since the second and 
third quarters of the sixteenth century. And long before 
the history of English newspapers began with the 
Weekly Newes, which Archer and Bourne published in 
London in 1622, journalistic pens were busy in England. 
By the end of the seventeenth and throughout the 
eighteenth centuries the writings of men as outstanding 
as Defoe, Swift, Bolingbroke, Pulteney, Addison, Dr. 
Johnson, John Wilkes and "' Junms " had made the 
printing press a power in the land. But it was not until 
John Walter I cast about for a fresh means of livelihood 
when his other ventures failed that the idea of rapid 
printing took shape as a " business proposition." 


John Walter then bethought him of a certain printing 
process in which he had taken some interest a few years 
earlier. It was known as " logography," and consisted 
of printing with " logotypes " or combinations of letters. 
The process itself had been invented by a compositor 
named Henry Johnson who had devised it for figures, so 
as to publish every evening a numerical list of blanks 
and prizes drawn daily in the State lottery. As this could 
not be done in time by the ordinary methods of com- 
posing, Johnson made types of from two to five figures, 
each of which could be set up as quickly as the type 
of a single figure. His method succeeded; and Johnson 
was about to adapt it to the printing of words 
when John Walter bought his patents and presently 
started a type foundry. Early in 1784 Walter took the 
kk King's late printing-house near Apothecaries' Hall," 
which stood on part of the site since occupied by The 
Times office. His strenuous work reduced the 90,000 
words in the English language to some 5,000, " by 
separating the particles and terminations, also removing 
the technical terms and obsolete expressions." These 
5,000 he reduced still further by cutting up the words 
into syllables, roots, prefixes and terminations, and thus 
produced a " fount of type " that could be arranged in 
four compositors' 4t cases " each measuring 61 feet by 
4J feet. The object was to enable a compositor to take 
from his case a combination of as many letters as 
possible at each movement, an'l yet not to have so many 
combinations of letters that time would be lost in finding 
those that were wanted. 

John Walter maintained that in this way the work of 
composing could be much more quickly done than with 
single types alone. Whether he was right or wrong, his 
'" logography " never had a fair chance. Jealousy killed 
it before it could " make good " or fail on its merits. 
Printers and booksellers resented the intrusion of a man 
who was not a recognised member of the printing craft, 


and they made things hard for him. For a time Walter 
stuck doggedly to his logotypes, and, since quick printing 
would obviously be of advantage to a newspaper, he 
started the Daily Universal Register, " printed logo- 
graphically," on January 1, 1785. How much "logo- 
graphy " was actually used in printing either the Daily 
Universal Register, or The Times (as John Walter called 
his journal from 1788 onwards), is a matter of doubt. 
Though he printed a pamphlet with logotypes in 1789, 
his compositors demanded the same pay for setting each 
logotype as they could have claimed for setting separately 
the letters which composed it. In any event, logographic 
printing soon dropped out of use in Walter's printing 
house; and the words "printed logographically " dis- 
appeared from the title page of The Times. 

To John Walter II, son of John Walter I, belongs the 
credit of having made the first great advance in the 
mechanical printing of newspapers. He took sole 
charge of the paper in 1803 and seems soon to have begun 
to experiment with a power-driven press. More than 
ten years later The Times announced on November 29, 

'* Ourjournal of this day presents to the public the practical 
result of the greatest improvement connected with printing 
since the discovery of the art itself. The reader of this 
paragraph now holds in his hand one of the many thousand 
impressions of The Times newspaper which were taken off 
last night by a mechanical apparatus. . . . 

" Of the person who made this discovery we have but little 
to add. ... It must suffice to say ... that he is a Saxon 
by birth, that his name is Koenig, and that the invention 
has been executed under the direction of his friend and 
countryman, Bauer." 

" This paragraph " said nothing of the man who had 
seen the worth of Koenig's invention, John Walter II. 
Nor did it mention an inventive English author and 
editor, William Nicholson, who had patented in 1790 


a cylinder printing press. From Nicholson's patent 
Koenig may have got some of his notions, though the 
patent itself was interesting rather than practical 
Nicholson's idea was to print from type fixed either on 
a flat bed or a cylinder, the impression of the type being 
taken by another cylinder covered with some suitable 
material, the paper being fed to the machine between 
the two cylinders, and the ink applied to the type by 
rollers. A further suggestion by Nicholson that type 
should be wedge-shaped, smaller at the foot and wider 
at the top, so as to allow of its being fixed on a cylinder 
in a way that would present an even printing surface, 
was not adopted by Koenig. It was, however, taken up 
later by Applegath and others, and it was really the 
foundation of the practice of printing from rotating 
cylinders which was in time to dominate newspaper 

Meanwhile Koenig's press used one cylinder, which 
took an impression from type fixed on a flat bed, the 
paper being fed between the bed and the cylinder. For 
the first time in the history of printing he used steam power 
with such effect that his machine in The Tunes office 
could print between 1,000 and 1,100 copies an hour of the 
little four-page sheet (20 inches by 32) which was then 
The Times. This was four times as many as could be 
printed by hand. Like all newspaper presses then, and 
until 1865, Koenig' s machine could only print one side 
of the paper, the other side having to be printed by what 
was called a " perfecting " operation. Still, the great 
revolution had begun. 

When Koenig had gone back to Germany, John 
Walter II employed Applegath and Cowper, two 
English inventors, who, in 1827, produced a new press 
capable of printing from 4,000 to 5,000 copies an hour. 
In 1848 the same Applegath wrought a further revolution 
by inventing his first rotary press, which worked entirely 
on the cylindrical principle. With it 10,000 copies of a 


four-page Times could be printed in an hour. Apple- 
gath's " cylinder " was polygonal in form and was 
surrounded by eight impression cylinders, each one 
column wide, the paper being fed to the machine between 
the main and the impression cylinders. Unlike Koenig's 
cylinder, Applegath's main cylinder stood and rotated 
vertically, not horizontally, and the flat bed of type 
was done away with. Two of these Applegath machines 
were used by The Times from 1848 to 1868. 

They were superseded by the first Hoe press, an 
American development of the rotating cylinder principle, 
which went back to a horizontal cylinder with type 
firmly fixed upon it. As early as 1845 Robert Hoe and 
Company, of New York, and afterwards of London, 
had constructed a " Hoe Type Revolving Machine," 
with a large round central cylinder that could revolve 
horizontally at a greater speed than Applegath's poly- 
gonal upright cylinder. Thanks to an apparatus for 
fixing the type firmly on the central cylinder, a whole 
page could be printed by the Hoe machine whereas 
Applegath's could only print columns. For some years 
The Times used Hoe machines specially built in England 
to its order. Each machine could print 20,000 sheets 
an hour on one side of the paper, or 20,000 sheets printed 
on both sides by the two machines. 

The drawback of these separate operations was 
obvious; how to overcome it was less plain. Sir 
Rowland Hill had suggested as far back as 1825 that a 
press capable of printing both sides of a reel of paper 
at once would be feasible. Forty years later William A. 
Bullock, of Philadelphia, found the way. Profiting by 
the invention of stereotyping which, like the process 
of printing itself, had developed rapidly between 1845 
and 1865, Bullock of Philadelphia used two stereotype 
plates on cylinders that could print both sides of a page 
at once. Under the impulse of his invention two other 
inventors, MacDonald and Calverley, of The Times, 


developed the Walter Press which The Times continued 
to use until 1895 when it was succeeded by a new 
Hoe press that could deal with three rolls of paper 

These developments had not been due to mechanical 
ingenuity alone. Once again, necessity was the mother 
of invention. In 1853 the tax on advertisements had 
been removed, and in 1855 the newspaper duty of 4d. 
on every printed copy of a newspaper was likewise 
repealed. When the duty of 3d. per pound on paper was 
also rescinded in 1861, the demand for newspapers 
increased by leaps and bounds. Then, as now, price was 
a determining factor in newspaper circulation. In 1865 
the number of copies printed by London newspapers 
alone was six times as large as the total circulation of 
all papers in the United Kingdom had been twenty-five 
years earlier. The repeal of the taxes made a penny 
paper commercially profitable and opened the door to a 
new style of journalism in which the Daily Telegraph 
was the pioneer. 

Nevertheless, The Times which had reduced Us price 
from 5d. to 4d. a copy when the advertisement duty was 
taken off in 1853, and decreased it by another penny in 
1861 after the repeal of the paper duty continued at 
the price of 3d. to be a pioneer in mechanical printing. 
It took advantage of experiments which had been going 
on in France and England in the making of stereotypes, 
and of the use of stereotype plates by the Bullock Press 
of Philadelphia, to develop the Walter Press which placed 
it again at the head of British newspaper printing. 

Here a word should be said of stereotyping. The 
technical names that are still used for some of the 
operations in the process suggest that the process itself 
was mainly French. Upon a flat bed or page of type, 
tightly screwed in a steel " chase " or chasse, and thus 
transformed into a "forme," a sheet of thick wet 


papier-mach6 was placed. The English term for this 
sheet is " flong " (a corruption of the French word 
flan}. Above the " flong " a thick sheet of rubber and 
one or more layers of woollen blanket were laid, and the 
%t forme " thus covered was pushed under a " mangle " 
or rolling machine which, under high pressure, caused 
the face of the type to make a deep impression in the 
"flong." So that the papier-mach<5 of trie flong might 
retain this impression, the " forme," with the flong still 
in position upon it, and a couple of soft, drying blankets 
on top, was next fixed under a steam-heated press, where 
it remained until the moisture had been squeezed and 
baked out of the flong. This operation converted the 
flong into a flexible sheet of hard dry cardboard with the 
page of a newspaper positively impressed upon it. With 
its change of consistency it changed its name and was 
called a " matrix." 

Trimmed to the right size and suitably prepared, the 
44 matrix " was next bent to semi-circular form and fixed 
in a mould or casting box, into which molten printing 
metal could be run. This metal an alloy of lead, tin 
and antimony set rapidly and took an exact negative 
impression of the curved '" matrix." Cooled, trimmed, 
bevelled and shaved, this semi-circular plate of metal was 
then fixed upon one half of a horizontal steel cylinder 
on the printing press. Another semi-circular plate, 
bearing the impress of another page, would then " clothe" 
the other half of the cylinder. Between the cylinders 
of the printing press ran an endless web of paper so 
arranged that each side of it could be printed simul- 
taneously and positively by the revolving cylinders. 

It was the invention of this method of casting curved 
metal plates from flat beds or pages of type that enabled 
Bullock of Philadelphia to print on both sides of a page 
with two stereotypes on cylinders, and also permitted 
MacDonald and Calverley of The Times to develop the 
Walter press. The Walter press had two horizontal 


cylinders carrying stercoplates cast from pages of type, 
and two impression cylinders covered with blanket. The 
paper, unwound from a continuous roll on a spindle, 
was passed over a tension roller, then over damping 
cylinders which wetted it on both sides, and so to the 
printing cylinders. On its passage between the upper 
or printing cylinders and the impression cylinders it was 
printed on one side; then it passed between the other 
pair of cylinders and was printed on the other side. 
Next, cutting cylinders divided it into completely printed 
newspapers, which were delivered from the machine 
unfolded and had to be folded by hand. Mechanism 
for folding, first used at Liverpool, was added to the 
Walter press in 1885. 

But newspapers were swiftly increasing the number 
jf their pages. The increase meant either more printing 
presses fed by single rolls of paper, or combinations of 
several machines so as to take more rolls of paper. 
The Hoe three-roll press, with two rolls of paper at one 
end and one at the other, was such a combination. 
With it the Walter press could not keep pace. By 1908, 
when Lord NorthchiTe installed perfected Hoe and Goss 
presses in The Times office, these machines had been 
developed to the point of printing a 32-page paper at 
the rate of 25,000 copies an hour each. Since then 
mechanical progress has been continuous. 

The rotary presses now in use are, indeed, miracles 
, of ingenuity. They carry out the operations of damping 
the paper (when necessary), feeding it to the cylinders, 
printing it gon both sides, cutting, folding, pasting and 
wrapping (when required) and counting. They are built 
m " decks " and utilise four or more reels of paper either 
in single width (two pages wide) or double width (four 
pages wide). When presses are built in double width a 
four-reel machine is known as an "octuple" and a three- 
reel machine as a "sextuple." Double-sextuple and double- 
octuple machines are also built to take six and eight reels 


of double-width 'paper respectively. The latest Hoe 
macrrres installed in The Times office during the autumn 
of 1937, and brought into use on December 2, are each 
122 feet long and as high as a small house. They can 
impress reels of paper at the rate of 20,000 cylinder 
revolutions an hour. Every unit prints two sections of 
eight pages each in one revolution of the cylinders; and 
each of the nine folders can turn out 40,000 copies of 
The Times in an hour or 360,000 copies altogether. 

These intricate monsters are mounted on massive 
-cast-iron frames to carry automatic reel stands which 
change the reels of paper without stopping. The 
weight of a reel is three-quarters of a ton and the paper 
on it is about five miles long. When the reel-stands are 
fully loaded, ninety reels can be either in use or in 
readiness for use. Thus twenty-four printed sheets, 
three-thousandths of an inch thick, are cut, folded and 
delivered at the rate of eleven a second. The motive 
power is electricity. 

All this speeding-up of the printing process might 
have been of little avail if the type from which stereo- 
plates are cast had continued to be set up slowly by hand. 
As John Walter 1 saw, the urgent need of newspapers 
was for quicker setting. His tfc logographs " were an 
effort to meet the need. They failed, and though an 
early attempt to set type by machinery seems to have been 
made in England about 1822, nearly fifty years were to 
pass before any such machine came into practicaJUjse;. 

Indeed, progress in the composition **-*&** '* 
remarkably slow. From the invention ojj 
types m the fifteenth century to 
The Times office between 1868 anc 
setting machine invented by a GermanJ 
no method had been discovered of 
satisfactorily than it could be set by 

The difficulty was inherent in 

setting. The earliest printers made their own types, 
but modern printers have recourse to a type founder. 
The first step in the making of type was to cut a letter at 
the end of a piece of fine steel which was afterwards 
hardened to form a punch, a separate punch being 
required for each character in every class or " fount " of 
type. Great care and delicacy are needed in making 
the " faces " of these punches so that every letter in the 
various sorts of a " fount " may be uniform in width, 
height and general proportion. When the punch has 
been passed as perfect it is driven into a piece of polished 
copper which goes to a " justifier," who sees that the 
width and height of the " faces " thus impressed are 
uniform and exactly in line with each other. The 
copper, duly punched, is called a kt drive " or " strike," 
and when completed the " strike " is called the matrix 
in which the face of the type is moulded. 

Until well into the nineteenth century types were 
tiist from these matrices in small hand-moulds from 
\\hich a skilful worker could produce about 400 letters 
an hour. The mould consisted of two parts fitting 
closely to each other and containing the matrix together 
\vith a space long enough to take the metal for the shank 
of the type. The shank is as important as the face of 
the type itself and, like almost every detail in the craft of 
printing, it bears a number of technical names. Each 
shank must be perfectly rectangular or it is useless. One 
side and the bottom of each are grooved, the groove or 
nick on the side enabling a compositor to recognise 
whether the type is the right way up. Without the 
groove, hand-setting of t>pe would be twice as slow as 
it actually is. 

When a foundry has supplied printers with a "fount" 
of type, the types are placed in shallow trays called 
" cases." For this reason the type-setting department 
of a newspaper is often called the " case room." These 
cases are divided into compartments or boxes in each 


of which some particular sort of type or letter is placed. 
The cases themselves stand on sloping desks, the upper 
case usually containing capital letters and the lower case 
ordinary letters. The boxes of the upper case are of 
equal size, but the lower case has fifty-three boxes of 
various sizes according to the letters which are most 
frequently used. The box for the letter " c," for in- 
stance, is the largest in the lower case. As a compositor 
seldom takes out from the boxes fewer than 1,500 letters 
an hour, it is important that the boxes should be as 
exactly proportioned as possible to the number of letteis 
or types they have to contain. 

When taken from the cases the types are arranged m 
lines, that is to say, " composed " or " set up," in an 
instrument called a " composing stick," usually made of 
metal. In the middle of the " stick " is a slide so that 
the lines can be of various lengths. The compositor 
fixes the " copy," or manuscript, which he has to set 
up in a convenient place before his e>e. Holding the 
composing stick in his left hand, he chooses the letters 
with the thumb and first finger of the right hand, arranges 
them in the composing stick letter by letter, with a 
" setting-rule," or thin strip of brass or steel, between 
each line. A part of his task is so to space the letters 
that they will fill a line as exactly as possible, " spaces," 
or simple shanks without faces, being placed between 
the types and between the separate words for this 
purpose. This operation is called " justifying." 

When the lines of type are placed close together they 
are said to be " solid," but if greater prominence or 
clearness is desired in the printed text, strips of metal 
called fct leads," though really ^ brasses," are placed 
between each line. The type is then said to be " leaded." 
When the composing stick has been filled its contents 
are transferred to a shallow tra> of wood or metal, called 
a " galley," long enough to hold several stickfuls of type 
and so arranged that the face of the type can be inked 


by a roller, and a " pull " or " galley proof " taken from 
it in order that a printer's " reader " may see what 
"printer's errors" have crept into the composition. 
After a first correction of these " galley " proofs, " cor- 
rected proofs " are " pulled " for distribution to the 
editorial departments in a newspaper office which they 

It will have been noted that in the processes of type- 
founding and type-setting the face of the type is twice 
reversed. On the punch the letter is cut in reverse so 
that the impression it makes upon the copper " strike," 
which forms the bottom of the type-mould, may be 
positive. The type cast from the mould is again negative 
or in reverse, and the " pull " or proof taken from it 
when set up is once more positive. Compositors are 
trained to read type in reverse so that they may easily 
detect an error. The rapidity with which they can read 
long blocks of type in reverse seems miraculous to the 
unskilled eye. 

These technical details may help to explain the diffi- 
culty of inventing a machine to do swiftly what com- 
positors had for centuries done slowly by hand. In- 
ventors of type-setting machines first tried to " assem- 
ble," or compose, mechanical types already cast by 
type founders. Their attempts failed or, at least, were 
not commercially warranted because of the difficulty of 
** justifying " to even lengths the lines of type mechani- 
cally composed. Several machines that could compose 
single types were, indeed, devised ; but the time needed 
to "justify " their work by hand, and to " distribute " 
the used types again, rendered the process too slow and 
too costly. So inventors presently took up the revolu- 
tionary idea of making machines capable of composing 
matrices from which complete lines of type could be 
cast in one piece or strip of printing metal, called a 
" slug." But this method, too, had its drawbacks. So 
far as straightforward composing went, the new idea was 


successful. It meant that a daily newspaper could be 
composed in a short time by a few " slug " machines 
instead of a large number of compositors working with 
large stocks of types. A drawback was that while speed 
and economy were gained, quality of printing was lost. 
The number of fck printer's errors " increased and, since 
the correction of every error meant the re-casting of a 
whole line, and often of several lines if the correction 
altered the space taken up by other letters or words, 
" slug " machines turned out to be less economical in 
practice than in theory. Some newspapers tried to get 
over this difficulty by ignoring minor errors with the 
result that newspapers composed only by slug machines 
were worse printed and contained more mistakes than 
the old hand-set newspapers. Besides, no means could 
be found to cast a '" slug line " with the precision and 
uniform height of movable type; no way of making 
sure that fresh errors would not creep into a new slug 
line, not to speak of the risk that the whole of a corrected 
slug line woulcl be inserted in the body of type at the 
wrong place or the wrong way up. 

These drawbacks were not foreseen when Kastenbein 
was encouraged in The Tunes office to perfect his type- 
setting machine. It was of the pre-slug sort. Its 
principle was to have a magazine of separate types from 
which each type could be released, as required, by the 
pressure of a finger-key and put in its right place in the 
line that was being composed. It could set 290 lines of 
The Times, consisting of nearly 17,000 separate types, m 
an hour. But the types thus set had to be " distributed " 
after use, that is to say, returned to their proper places 
in the magazine of Kastenbein's machine. Several 
attempts were made to do this mechanically until it was 
found that the quickest and surest way to distribute 
type was to put it into the melting pot and to cast it 
afresh after each printing. Frederick Wicks, a member 
of the editorial staff of The Times, invented a rotary 

E 2 


machine for type-casting which made it possible to 
melt down and re-cast all the type that had been used in 
printing an issue of The Times. So the Kastenbein 
type-setting machine, in combination with the Wicks 
machine for casting, supplied The Times with fresh type 
for every issue of the paper until the more modern 
composing machines, known as the " Monotype," the 
" Linotype " and the " Inter-type " were introduced in 
the first decade of this century. 

The invention of these machines was due in part to 
the impulse which the Walter family had given to the 
mechanical development of printing And one reason 
why The Times was so often a pioneer m this respect 
may have been that until well into the third quarter of 
the nineteenth century its circulation, even at the price 
of 3d., was much larger than that of any other morning 
paper. Thus it had a direct interest in turning out its 
4t imprint," or total number of printed copies, as swiftly 
as possible. Even when its circulation was only 20,000, 
the difficulty of printing it had been so great that the 
single four-page sheets of which The Times then con- 
sisted could not be completely printed off until the late 
afternoon of the day of issue. Though several rival 
papers had been founded in the second quarter of the 
nineteenth century the Standard, in 1827, and the Daily 
News, in 1$45 The Times remained in a class by itself. 
In 1855 it had a daily circulation of some 50,000 copies, 
whereas no other paper printed even 7,500 copies, and 
several failed to reach half that number. Even m 1866 
the circulation of The Times was 66,000 copies at 3d., 
and was far higher than that of the Daily Telegraph, 
which was making its way among the middle class at 
the price of only one penny. 

The Daily Telegraph had been founded in 1855 upon 
the removal of the newspaper stamp duty. It was sold 
at 2d., and failed within three months. Then it was 
taken over by Mr. J. Moses Levy, a printer, in settlement 


of an unpaid printing bill. Besides being a practical 
printer, Mr. Levy was a newspaper man of genius. He 
converted the single slieet of the original DailvTelegraph 
into a four page paper and sold it at Id. Perhaps he 
understood that the attraction of cheapness would end 
by being irresistible to a public apt to care less for the 
quality of the newspapers it buys than for the price it pays 
for them. Though the Daily 'Telegraph was not the first 
penny paper in England, it was the first penny paper in 
London. It addressed itself deliberately to the middle 
class to a public less critical than that for which the 
Press had so far catered. Its success was immediate, 
both in circulation and in advertising revenue. It took 
away from The Times, which contemptuously scorned 
its competition, a large proportion of small ^ classified " 
advertisements, and drew from them a substantial pro- 
portion of its income. Little by little the Daily Telegraph 
encroached also upon the circulation of The Times. Not 
only was the discrepancy between 3d. and Id. too \\ide 
for the newspaper-reading public long to ignore, but 
both Mr. Levy and his son (the first Lord Burnhara) 
were shrewd enough to gather round their paper a 
brilliant staff of writers under an editor and man of Ictteis 
so distinguished as Edwin Arnold. To the attraction 
of cheapness they began to add the virtue of quality. 
Nor did they shrink from heavy outlay on original news. 
Free from the temptation into which The Times had 
fallen to look upon itself as a kt national institution " 
and therefore to treat t4 lesser breeds" of journals with 
contempt the Daily Telegraph gradually surpassed The 
Times in circulation and, though its political influence 
was smaller, gained for itself a national and international 


The Times nevertheless retained its technical pre- 
eminence in printing and its high literary standards. 


During the period from 1908 until 1922, Lord Northcliffe 
supplied the impulse which the Walters had so often 
given it. By 1908 composing machines known as 
^ linotypes," with their attendant drawbacks, had come 
into use krmany newspaper offices. These drawbacks 
had led an American inventor, Talbert Lanston, of 
Washington, to devise a " monotype " composing 
machine upon entirely new principles. He separated the 
process of composing from that of casting the type. He 
improved the spacing between the individual letters 
and avoided the " slug line." The keyboard of his 
" monotype " machine perforated a roll of paper much 
in the way that a pianola record is perforated, each hole 
corresponding to one letter or sign. The perforated 
rolls of paper were then transferred to a separate electric 
casting-machine, which cast one type or sign according 
to each hole in the paper and with perfect precision of 
height and width. The electric caster automatically 
placed each type in its proper place and separately, so 
that corrections could be made by hand and the quality 
of the printing could be restored to the highest standards 
of the hand-setting era. An automatic monotype caster 
could cast as many as 160 types a minute rather 
fewer than the letters in a linotype " slug," but far 
better work. 

This competition compelled the inventors of the 
" linotype " and other machines to improve their models 
and the range of types cast. Another machine, called 
the " Inter-type," was based on the " slug " principle 
but built with standardised parts so that improvements 
could be fitted to any original machine, and the range 
and versatility of the machine itself be greatly increased. 
Consequently, many important newspapers now use 
linotypes and intertypes as well as a number of mono- 
types. The two former are employed for rapid com- 
position, and monotypes for work that can be more 
slowly done or in which corrections are likely to be 


needed- In The Times office, for instance, one-third of 
the machines are monotypes and two-thirds are " slug." 
A small proportion of special matter is still set by hand. 

Yet it must not be supposed that good newspaper 
printing is now merely a question of care and ingenuity 
in the making and the choice of machines. The men 
behind the machines still have their part to play. Some 
years ago the late Mr. Cyrus H. K. Curtis, proprietor 
of the Saturday Evening Post and of the Public Ledger of 
Philadelphia, asked permission to inspect the printing 
establishment of The Times. He wished to solve a 
problem that was puzzling him. He could not under- 
stand how The Times achieved what he called its " fine, 
smooth printing." His own Saturday Evening Post, with 
a circulation of 3,000,000 copies weekly, was among the 
best printed magazines in the world, and it was equipped 
with the latest machinery of all kinds. 

In The Times office Mr. Curtis saw nothing new in 
the way of machinery. So, after inspecting all the 
processes, he was still puzzled. He asked the head 
printer of The Times if there were any secret he had not 
been shown. The head printer answered: "We never 
allow a type-setting machine or an electric caster to get 
out of order. As soon as the slightest irregularity is 
detected, the machine is taken out of service and over- 
hauled. We never let a machine, or any part of it, run 
down or become so worn that its work is inferior and the 
only way out is to ' scrap ' it." 

Mr. Curtis recognised that this might be the secret 
he was seeking, though he doubted whether American 
newspaper offices would depart from the usual American 
practice of working machines to death and then replacing 
them by new machines. Just as there was artistry in the 
old hand-printing, so there may be artistry in the care 
for machines, which respond to and " pay for " con- 
siderate handling. Wherever printing of high quality is 
found in newspapers or magazines, its excellence may be 


attributable as much to the care given to the machines 
as to the machines themselves. 

But what of the type used in the printing of news- 
papers ? Does it differ essentially from the type used 
for printing books ? While the history of printing 
was for centuries that of letter-cutting and type-founding 
for books, the history of newspaper printing is mainly 
that of mechanical development. Yet the types used in 
newspapers ha\e a history of their own, and they bear 
names unfamiliar to the newspaper-reading public. How 
many readers of Kipling's verse feel the bite of four lines 
in his poem, " The Files," or understand the satire they 
pour upon departed worthies who may have thought 
themselves, or been thought, worthy of big type in the 
newspaper reports at one moment, only to dwindle to 
the indignity of small type, set " solid " at the bottom 
of a page, upon their demise. Kipling warns " All 
coming Robert Brownings and Carlyles " that it will 
interest them to " hunt among the files " of newspapers 
and to 

Trace each all-forgot career 
From long primer through brevier 
Unto Death, a para minion in the Files 
(Para minion solid bottom of the Files). 

" Long primer " is the largest ordinary type used by a 
newspaper like The Tunes. " Brevier " is an inter- 
mediate size between " long primer " and " minion," the 
latter being the smallest currently used in the composition 
of newspapers. A " para minion solid " is a para- 
graph set in small type without the " leads," or spaces 
between the lines, that give it prominence. 

Each of these names has its own story, and the names 
persist though other systems of classifying type have 
been introduced by modern printers. The principal of 
the ordinary British and American types are known in 


order of size as " Great primer," " English," " Pica," 
" Small pica," " Long primer," " Bourgeois " (pro- 
nounced "burjoice"), "Brevier," "Minion," "Non- 
pareil," " Ruby " and " Pearl." 

But not all types of the same name are of the same 
size. The long primer of one type-founder might, for 
instance, fill only 89 lines to the foot of type while that 
of another would fill 92. To meet this difficulty 
American type-founders agreed upon a " point-system," 
which they hoped would be uniform. Taking the shanks 
of six pica letters as filling a space of 0.996 inches, they 
divided this space into 12 parts or points, other types 
being cast as multiples of one of these points and specified 
according to the number of them they contained. In 
this way pica was specified as a " 12-pomt" type, long 
primer as " 10-point," minion as " 7-point " and pearl 
(the smallest) as " 5-point." At the other end of the 
scale type sizes ran up to 72-point and, for capital 
letters, to 84-pomt. But even this system failed to secure 
complete uniformity. Since the '' points " are measured 
from the shanks, or " bodies," not from the face or 
letters of the types, the 10-point or 12-point face of one 
" fount " of type will differ considerably in width and 
height from 10-point or 12-point of another fount. So 
uniformity still eludes the type-founders; and while 
they may prefer to use these newer designations of type, 
I fancy it will be long before the older and more pictur- 
esque names go entirely out of use in newspaper offices. 

The earliest English newspapers were printed in what 
was known as " old-face " type, which the English 
type-cutter, Caslon, had adapted from type cut by a 
Frenchman named Garamond in the sixteenth century. 
The Morning Post was printed in " old-face " when it 
first appeared on November 2, 1722, as was The Times 
under its original name of The Daily Universal Register 
on January 1, 1785. Two years later another journal 
called The World, or Fashionable Gazette was printed 


in " modern-face " type under the direction of John Bell 
at the British Library in the Strand. Bell's interest in 
printing had been quickened by a visit to Paris in 1785, 
where he studied the types used in the leading printing 
offices, and took delight in the designs produced in 1702 
by another Frenchman named Grandjean. By 1780 the 
finest Paris printers had adopted these designs and, on 
his return to England, John Bell set up a type foundry 
and adapted them to English use with Richard Austin 
as his punch-cutter. Together they produced the first 
English " modern-face/' 

The cutting of this fount of type was remarkably good. 
Notwithstanding its French inspiration it looked English, 
and it made a sensation among printers when it was used 
in the title of Bell's edition of Pope, and especially in 
The World, or Fashionable Gazette. Though John 
Walter I of The Tunes opposed its use, his paper soon 
began to bring its own " old-face " type nearer to Bell's 
44 modern-face," and on November 9, 1799, The Times 
44 went modern " throughout. Though the Morning Post 
continued to use " old-face " for nearly five years longer, 
it ended by capitulating, and soon the whole newspaper 
Press as well as the book-printing craft also " went 
modern." Slight changes and improvements were 
presently introduced by William Miller, of Edinburgh, 
who established in 1809 the first type foundry to be 
devoted entirely to " modern-face," and further changes 
have gradually come about in order to increase the 
legibility of newspaper print. 

Thus the printing of English newspapers has developed 
on English lines despite the foreign designs which 
English type-cutters took as their models. It is a curious 
fact that England never led the way in type-designing. 
Until 1509 the prevailing English type was the Gothic 
black-letter, a variety of the formal Gothic type, called 
" Textur," which prevailed in Germany; and black-letter 
continued to be usual for some thirty years after 1509, 


when the earliest Roman type appeared in England. 
If it be asked why black-letter did not survive in this 
country, and become standard for books and newspapers 
as the ornamented variety of Gothic, called " Fraktur," 
did in Germany, the answer may be that many of the 
leading printers in England were foreigners who did not 
feel bound to uphold any English standard or tradition. 
At all events, these foreign printers in England followed 
French models and soon adopted the Roman letter to 
the exclusion of almost every other letter. The Germans, 
on the other hand, clung to the Gothic letter because 
it had been used by Gutenberg and other early German 
printers. So to-day we find most German newspapers 
printed in Gothic " Fraktur " to the serious dis- 
advantage of German eyesight and a battle still going 
on between it and the Roman letter which, together 
with italic lettering, was favoured by many of the 
Humanists during the classical Renaissance, ]ndeed, 
italic was once an independent letter with a genealogy of 
its own as old as', and in some ways more interesting 
than, that of Roman. It is a cursive or running variety 
of the Humanistic script originally adopted by the Papal 
Chancery for Papal briefs. In France, where italic is 
much favoured by poets, it still plays an important part. 
In England, on the contrary, all that printers ask is that 
an italic fount shall harmonise with the Roman when it 
is used for the sake of emphasis or in quotations from 
foreign languages. 

The earliest printers, whose aim it was to reproduce 
by metal types something that should closely resemble 
the manuscript or hand-written book, can hardly have 
foreseen the revolution which their new craft would bring 
about in the means of spreading knowledge and ideas. 
They did not design letters anew; they imitated in type 
the penmanship of the scribes. Though the early 
Humanists of the Renaissance broke away from the 


models of penmen and reverted to classical letters, 
neither they nor the designers and cutters of type felt 
the impulse that ended by producing the newspaper 
press the urge for speed, As I have sought to show, 
the history of the newspaper press is largely an attempt 
to gam time, to overcome the slowness of hand-printing, 
and to place before an ever-widening public of news- 
paper buyers the latest news printed on the largest num- 
ber of copies with the least possible delay. Whether 
the human mind has been enriched or fortified by these 
developments may be an open question. It is in any 
event an academic question, since a modern world 
without newspapers would be hard to imagine. But the 
part which the newspaper press should play in the life 
of the community is still a matter of great moment, all 
the more because the intricacy and the cost of the 
machines and organisations now needed to produce and 
to sell newspapers have ended by creating a " newspaper 
industry " which may not have at heart the public weal 
as distinguished from the prosperity of its "vested 
interests." Under these conditions the freedom of the 
Press takes on an aspect somewhat different from that 
which it wore before the development of mechanical 
printing began to change the struggling news-sheets of 
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries into the wealthy 
and widely circulated journals of to-day, 



IT used to be thought that the circulation of a newspaper 
showed how much interest the public took in its contents, 
and that its sales were a fair measure of its influence. 
Up to the middle of the nineteenth century this \\as 
broadly true. Even at the price of 3d. the circulation 
of The Tunes reached nearly 70,000 copies daily during 
the Crimean War, and stood at well over 60,000 for 
the next twenty years. For a long time it held its own, 
even in the number of its readers, against the Daily 
Telegraph and other penny papers; though, as time 
went on, the latter gained far higher circulations. But 
these older standards lost much of their validity when 
Alfred Harmsworth started a newspaper revolution with 
his Daily Mail m 1896; and when, some years later, 
a Sunday newspaper like the News of the World managed 
to sell 3,000,000 copies of each issue. In the first decade 
of this century the circulation of The Times had dropped 
below 40,000. Yet its influence remained far greater 
than that of the Daily Mail, which sold ten or twenty 
times as many copies. So there was obviously some- 
thing wrong with the assumption that influence could 
be measured by the yardstick of quantity. 

There was something amiss, too, with the supposition 
that the biggest circulations would always bring the 
largest revenues from advertisers. The power of a 
newspaper to sell the goods it advertises must depend, 
to some extent, upon the buying power of its readers. 



A newspaper with a smaller circulation among a superior 
" quality " of readers can command higher advertise- 
ment rates per thousand copies than a newspaper more 
widely read by a poorer public. But when, as in the 
case of the Daily Mail, a widely-read paper appealed 
to a public with money to spend, quantity as well as 
quality of circulation began to count, and the value of 
its advertisement columns went up by leaps and 

Revenue from advertisements has long been the 
mainstay of newspaper enterprise in Great Britain. Up 
to a point this position is healthier than that in some 
other countries where revenue from sales of newspapers 
barely covers the cost of producing them, and the 
temptation to accept secret subsidies from official, 
industrial, financial or even foreign sources is too strong 
to be resisted. The proportion of revenue which British 
newspapers draw from sales, as compared with their 
income from advertisements, varies from paper to paper 
and may be hard to determine precisely even when 
balance-sheets are made up. Some published balance- 
sheets put revenue from sales at one-half or more of 
total income; others at about two-fifths. But I know 
of instances in which sales covered scarcely one-third 
of the cost of producing a newspaper and left the other 
two-thirds to be met out of advertisement revenue, not 
to mention any profit that mi^ht be made. 

In an estimated budget of a popular twenty-page 
newspaper with a daily circulation oi 2,000,000 copies 
(given in the " Report on the British Press " by the 
fck Political and Economic Planning " Group) the total 
outlay of the paper is put at 3,000,000, and total 
revenue at 3,400,000. On the revenue side the income 
from advertisements is entered as 1,800,000, and 
receipts from sales as 1,600,000. On this showing, 
receipts from sales would cover more than half the 
annual outlay. But the estimated budget also includes 

an expenditure of 300,000 on " Canvassing and 
Publicity," besides 100,000 for " Readers' Insurance/' 
So the 1,600,000 revenue from sales looks like gross 
income against which the cost of canvassing and publicity 
and of readers' insurance ought to be set. This would 
bring net income from sales down to 1,200,000, or 
40 per cent, of the total outlay a proportion which, I 
should imagine, is rarely exceeded in the actual budgets 
of any British newspaper. Advertisement revenue has 
therefore to cover the other 60 per cent, of outlay and 
to provide whatever profit there may be. The importance 
of a big income from advertisements is evident. 

By trying to establish an arithmetical relationship 
between the sales of a newspaper and its advertisement 
charges Alfred Harmsworth (or Lord NorthclifYe) 
began a revolution in the British Press. Like those of 
other revolutions, its effects have not been uniformly 
good. As the circulation of his Daily Mail crept up 
and its charges for advertising space mounted close 
behind them, his mind was beglamoured by the thought 
that a huge circulation would connote an increase of 
his influence even more than of his wealth. At last 
the proud day arrived when he could plaster the hoard- 
ings of London and the walls of houses with the jingling 
rhyme: " Daily Mail Million Sale." And as the total 
of sold copies continued to increase thanks in part 
to the perfection of his distributing organisation and 
in part to journalistically unworthy devices such as 
the insurance of " registered readers " against accidents 
or death and to approach a total of two millions, he 
cancelled the " Million Sale " in the fond expectation 
that the prouder " slogan " " Two Million Sale " 
would soon replace it. 

But neither he nor his brother and successor, Lord 
Rothermere, ever saw the Daily Mail reach the two- 
million mark. This achievement, and whatever quantita- 
tive glory may surround it, was reserved for Lord 


Beaverbrook's Daily Express, and for the " Labour " 
Daily Herald under the management of Odhams. In 
the effort to put his competitors in the shade Northcliffe 
had, however, taken a step which, in my view, has done 
great harm to the British Press. Insisting that advertisers 
are entitled to full value for their money, and ought to 
be sure that they get the degree of publicity they pay 
for, Northcliffe published chartered accountants' certifi- 
cates of the number of copies effectively sold by the 
Daily Mail and his other journals. In this way he 
sought to compel his rivals likewise to publish their 
" net sales certificates " on pain of incurring suspicion 
that they were charging higher advertisement rates than 
their circulations warranted. 

This looked like " k honesty in business " of the best 
sort, and such Northcliffe may have thought it. But 
as human motives are not always simple, his action 
may also have been inspired by a desire to " show up " 
his rivals and to prove himself the real friend of adver- 
tisers, an increase of whose custom would reward his 
probity. Had he foreseen some of the consequences 
of his " net sales certificates " campaign, or had he lived 
to observe them, he might have seen how dubious they 
were and have tried to mitigate them. None knew 
better than he that an advertisement-ridden Press cannot 
be a free Press. He was convinced that the Press, if it 
wished to preserve its own independence, must keep 
advertisers in their proper places as salesmen, and not 
allow them to dictate policy or even to vulgarise the 
appearance of a newspaper by glaring " display " 
advertisements. He failed to see that the mania for 
" net sales certificates " would end by giving large buyers 
of newspaper publicity the whip-hand of journalism 
and by making the Press a handmaid of " big business." 

On this matter of " net sales certificates" some plain 
speaking is needed. Advertising is reputedly a " business 


proposition," a commercial transaction pure and simple. 
A newspaper offers so much space in such and such a 
position to manufacturers or agents with goods to 
sell, and undertakes to bring the advertisement of their 
goods before the eyes of its readers. Since newspapers 
depend upon their advertisement revenue to make ends 
meet and to earn a profit, does it not follow that it is 
only just and fair that the men or the agencies who 
buy newspaper publicity should be sure of getting in 
full measure what they pay for? Within limits it does 
follow, though the limits should be carefully drawn 
and firmly insisted upon. Advertisers need the Press 
as 'much as the Press needs them; and undiscnmmating 
insistence on their part upon tfc net sales certificates " 
may tend to deprive them of the very guarantee they 
look for. Besides, the quantitative concept of publicity- 
value leads advertisers and their agents to withhold 
advertisements from high-class publications with limited 
circulations and thus to cripple or to strangle some of 
the best organs of the Press For this reason, among 
others, the mortality among high-class periodicals of 
educative value in this country has in recent years been 
especially heavy. 

One result of Northchffe's " net sales certificates "' 
agitation was, indeed, to make numerical circulation 
the main criterion of publicity-value. If the highest 
advertisement rates were paid to newspapers with the 
biggest circulations, if the Daily Mail was able, at one 
period, to charge 1,400 a day for its front pace and 
to have a long <k waiting list " of candidates for its 
space at that figure, would not its rivals be driven so 
to increase their circulation by hook or by crook that 
they, too, might get a share of the golden harvest ? 

This is precisely what happened. Advertisers and 
their agents began to demand net sales certificates as 
indispensable passports to their favour. So " popular " 
newspapers offered insurance benefits and " free gifts " 


to " registered readers," and employed canvassers to 
bribe housewives and other prospective readers in a 
dozen ways if they would only promise to " take the 
paper " for a stated period. Some of these tricks ended 
by depriving advertisers of the degree of publicity for 
which they paid since many " registered readers " 
never looked at a copy of the paper which offered them 
insurance benefits while others bought five or six copies 
in the hope of getting prizes for cross-word puzzles or 
for the sake of " competition coupons." In these and 
other ways advertisers and their agents have lacked 
both business gumption and public spirit. 

The business of advertising has now been placed 
on an arithmetical footing and is governed by a number 
of established rules. Advertisers are asked to pay so 
and so much per column-inch of space per thousand 
readers according to the position of the column on a 
newspaper page and of the prominence of the page 
itself. These column-inch rates range from 3 in The 
Times to 6 10s. in the Daily Express. Special rates 
may be quoted for certain positions and for whole or 
half pages, a half-page " above the fold " being more 
valuable than the same space k * below the fold." A 
full page may fetch anything from 400 to 1,000. 
The front page of the Daily Mail is still priced at 1,400, 
as it is the only front page in a London daily paper 
that is available for " display " advertisements. How 
long the Daily Mail will be able to command this price 
remains to be seen. It is no longer clamouring for the 
publication of " net sales certificates " ; and though 
short-term fluctuations in sales do not induce news- 
papers to alter their advertisement rates, advertisers 
have been taught by Northcliffe's " net sales " campaign 
to grow restive when they suspect that any steady drop 
in circulation is being hidden from them. In this event 
a newspaper may allow advertisers a " special cut rate " 

without altering their nominal charge. " Cut rates " 
are also common for long-term contracts and for big 
amounts of advertising. Drapery-store advertisements 
are published at lower than standard rates because they 
have " news value " for women and tend by themselves 
to increase circulation. It is a safe guess that most 
newspapers sell their advertising space at a discount 
of not less than 25 per cent, on their standard rates. 

The column-inch rate works out in different ways 
according to the class of readers who are expected to 
read an advertisement. The Daily Express, as I have 
said, charges 6 10s. per column-inch and The Times 
only 3. But, on the tk column-inch per 1,000 readers " 
basis, The Times with its circulation of some 200,000 
copies is seen to charge proportionately a much higher 
rate than the Daily Express which boasts a circulation 
of 2,400,000. The Daily Telegraph charges 5 per 
column-inch for a circulation of over 650,000. The 
Daily Mail and the Daily Herald each charge 6 per 
column-inch, though the former sells hardly more than 
1,500,000 copies while the latter sells 2,000,000. The 
explanation of these differences lies m the estimated 
purchasing power of readers. 

Advertisers and their agents are often gullible folk. 
They think, for example, that a popular paper with a 
certificate showing a " net sale" of 1,000,000 copies 
is a much more valuable medium of publicity than 
another which sells only 950,000. And when by dint 
of ''insurance benefits," "free gifts," "competition 
coupons," canvassing and what not, a paper reaches 
the 2,000,000 mark, advertisers are deeply impressed. 
They seem unwilling to admit, even to themselves, that 
advertising is a gamble in public psychology and that 
there is no such thing as mathematical or even 
arithmetical certainty about it. 

As " business men," advertisement agents and their 


clients may shrug thejr shoulders at the part " net 
sales certificates " and the mania for " million sales " 
have played in lowering the level of the Press. Are 
they their brothers' keepers ? What they want is that 
advertisements should " pull," that is to say, should 
bring about a recognised and recognisable increase in 
the sale of the wares advertised. If the front page of 
the Daily Mail fct pulls " better than the advertisement 
pages of its rivals the reason must be that it appeals 
to a public which is in the habit of reading advertise- 
ments besides possessing the wherewithal to buy the 
goods advertised. Nor, these business men may argue, 
ought they to be censured for refusing to give a fair 
share of their patronage to high class or kt high brow " 
penodicals of educative worth, for not only is the 
circulation of such periodicals infinitesimal in com- 
parison with that of publications with a million or 
more " registered readers," but the people who are 
educated or intelligent enough to enjoy reading " high- 
brow " stuff are less likely than others to look at 
advertisements or to be persuaded by them to buy the 
articles advertised. After all, business is business. If 
blame there be, should it not be put upon the public, 
where it belongs ? 

Advertisers and their agents must be supposed to 
know their own business best. Yet some experience 
of them has suggested doubt even on this score to my 
irreverent mind. One of their practices is to " key " 
advertisements in the hope of finding out what sales 
have actually been prompted by advertisements in this 
or that publication. The assumption, which may be 
largely fantastic, is that buyers who are influenced by 
an advertisement will write or say that they have seen 
it in this or that newspaper. A small proportion of 
buyers may do so. A far higher proportion never do 
anything of the kind. Besides, the " key " system 
ignores a simple psychological rule in which the adver- 

tisers on large public hoardings place their trust. This 
rule is the cumulative effect of repeated suggestion, 
pictorial or verbal. Large advertisers are well aware 
that when this kind of suggestion ceases for a lime their 
sales tend to fall off. In the nature of things they cannot 
know with any degree of precision which of the media 
through which the suggestion has been conveyed ib 
the most effective. They gamble on a theory of 
probabilities. Obviously, when their suggestions are 
conveyed to the public by tfc display " advertisements 
m widely-circulated newspapers, the chances of getting 
a tangible result are increased. Yet, here again, it 
is necessary to distinguish between the number of 
people who read a paper or who scan its advertise- 
ments and the numbers vouched for in " net sales 

Most newspapers are seen or read by more than one 
person. The higher-class newspapers, whose actual 
sales may be barely a tenth of those claimed by the 
biggest " popular " journals, probably pass through 
many more hands than do the " popular " sheets. A 
single copy of The Times, for instance, is likely to be 
read or seen by many more people than a single copy 
of the Daily Mail or the Daily Express. The Times has 
therefore a " quality " circulation both numerically 
and intellectually. To a more limited extent the same 
may be true of other papers of the higher class such 
as the Daily Telegraph, the Manchester Guardian, the 
Yorkshire Post and the Glasgow Herald. It was certainly 
true also of the defunct Morning Post, though if adver- 
tisers had appreciated this fact the Morning Post might 
have survived. In a much fuller degree it is true of 
educative periodicals which seek to " do their bit "' 
in the general work of public enlightenment. Of one 
such periodical with a circulation far above that of 
any comparable publication I can speak with know- 
ledge. Though a net sales certificate would have shown 


its numerical circulation to be in the neighbourhood of 
10,000 copies, each copy was read by an average of 
ten persons, and some copies passed through as many 
as 300 hands. Libraries and institutions which tried 
to keep a file of it invariably found it thumbed and read 
to tatters before the next issue could appear. Yet by 
no means of persuasion could advertisers or advertise- 
ment agents be induced to take this large effective 
circulation into account or to go beyond their self- 
hypnotising formula of " net sales certificates." The 
havoc which pedantic insistence upon this principle 
has wrought among the more serious periodicals in 
this country is a national misfortune. 

For this havoc the big advertisers may not be directly 
to blame. Most of them leave the actual placing of 
their advertisements to an advertising manager or to 
an agent. These men not unnaturally prefer the ease 
of keeping a few large accounts to the bother of keeping 
many small accounts. Their work is thus simplified 
and, in the case of advertisement agents, commissions 
are earned with less trouble. For this reason also the 
tendency is to crush out the k< small " newspaper or 
periodical and to favour the concerns which deal in 
big sums. In my view the advertising " profession " 
bears a heavy responsibility for the undeniable lowering 
of the character and quality of the British Press as a 
whole during the last ten or twenty years. Like news- 
paper owners, advertisers operate in " moral values," 
and no amount of hand-washing indifference, or 
" business is business " cant, makes them less answer- 
able for the harm which their sins of omission and 
commission have done and may do to the public through 
the Press. They are eager enough to get editorial 
" puffs " from complacent journals. They frequently 
insist that their advertisements should be placed " next 
to reading matter " so that the eye of a reader may be 
less likely to escape the suggestion of their advertise- 

ment. In a dozen ways they seek to influence the Press 
to their own advantage. How long will it be before 
they rise to a view of the moral responsibilities of their 
kfc profession " at all commensurate with its influence 
upon the life of the nation ? 

I have often discussed this matter with manufacturers 
of popular wares and with other big advertisers whose 
outlay on newspaper publicity runs into six figures 
annually; and I have suggested to them that they should 
not leave the allocation of this large sum solely to a 
technical advertising staff or to an advertisement agent. 
If they thrive on public purchases of their goods they 
owe some duty to the public. They ought therefore to 
set aside a proportion, say, 10 per cent., of their annual 
outlay on advertisements for the benefit of periodicals 
and other publications that seek to instruct and to 
educate rather to amuse their readers. Otherwise the 
better class of periodicals may be starved to death. 
Sound business is not always short-sighted business. 

News agents and news vendors, both individually 
and in the form of distributing companies, play a veiy 
important part in the circulation of newspapers and 
periodicals. As regards the major distributing com- 
panies their business is peculiarly profitable, because 
other people's money helps to finance it. It is really 
a commission agent's business. These large companies 
fetch newspapers and other publications from the 
offices where they are printed, convey them in lorries 
to the railway termini whence newspaper trains carry 
them throughout the country and distribute them to 
railway and other bookstalls. For these services news- 
papers pay in the form of a rebate of one-third of their 
published selling price, plus a 5 per cent, commission. 
London morning papers of which all except The Times 
are now published at one penny are distributed in 
quires of twenty-seven copies each at a wholesale price 


of Is. 6d. Of the 2s. 3d. which the public pays for these 
twenty-seven copies, one-third, or ninepence, goes to 
cover the distributor's costs and to provide his profit. 
He settles up with the newspapers periodically. Mean- 
while, the majority of individual buyers of newspapers 
pay cash for them, though some newsvendors run 
weekly or monthly accounts with their patrons. The 
bulk of the cash paid by individual purchasers passes 
to the wholesalers who can use it as working capital 
and may have a good deal of it in hand before paying 
over to the newspapers the proportion of the selling 
price which is their due. National morning papers 
actually get about Is. 5d. per quire of twenty-seven 

Onerous though this system may be, its justification 
is that newspapers find it less costly than to organise 
and maintain distributive systems of their own. Besides, 
the great national newspapers are powerful enough in 
combination to keep the demands of wholesalers within 
bounds. This advantage is not enjoyed by weaker 
journals or by high-class periodicals that seek to stand 
on their own feet. The case of one such periodical 
may be given by way of illustration. 

The owner of this periodical had reason to be dis- 
satisfied with the arrangements made for distributing 
it. It was being systematically hidden from view on 
the bookstalls controlled bv a firm of wholesalers. 
On inquiry the owner was told that more might be done 
for him if he would pay a fee for " scaling out " an 
extra supply of copies on the wholesaler's bookstalls. 
When the fee had been paid and the " scaling out " 
process had gone on for a time, the owner thought that 
his magazine might be able to " run alone." So the 
" scaling out " fee was discontinued. The firm of 
wholesalers retaliated not only by ceasing to order the 
extra copies for " scaling out," but by reducing its 
original order, so that its bookstalls were unable to 

supply, except on " special order " involving the 
loss of some days, the copies for which the public 

Moreover, the wholesaler's payments to the owner 
were made at irregular intervals and invariably fell 
short by some 40 per cent, of the amount due to him, 
the shortage being covered by a mysterious item called 
" stock in hand." Upon further enquiry the owner 
discovered that the firm of wholesalers was retaining 
this high percentage of his money ostensibly as a pre- 
caution against his eventual failure to meet his engage- 
ments. When he suggested that " stock in hand " 
really meant the measure of the wholesaler's distrust of 
his solvency, no answer was given, nor was there any 
response to his further suggestion that the real, albeit 
unconfessed, purpose of " stock in hand " was to retain 
permanently for the use of the wholesaler a proportion 
of the owner's working capital. Resolved to put the 
matter to the test the owner then offered to deposit 
in a bank, as a guarantee for " stock in hand," a gilt- 
edged security to an amount higher than the sum 
usually retained by the wholesaler on two conditions. 
These conditions were that fct stock in hand " should 
disappear from the wholesaler's statements of account, 
and that the interest on the deposited security 
should be payable to the owner, though the principal 
could not be touched without the wholesaler's 

This offer was flatly refused, and the owner drew his 
own conclusions. They were not flattering to a firm 
which, in addition to receiving a rebate of some 37 per 
cent, upon the selling price of his periodical, was reckon- 
ing thirteen copies as twelve and charging a further 
commission of 10 per cent, upon actual receipts from 
sales before withholding a goodly portion of the re- 
mainder as " stock m hand." So the owner enlisted 
the good offices of another wholesaler who knew the 


" tricks of the trade " and was able to circumvent 

Enough has been said to show that not all is well 
with the "business side" of the Press. A little light on 
dark places may perhaps be wholesome and help to check 
abuses that flourish in obscurity. Both as regards the 
distributing companies and the advertising side of the 
'" newspaper industry " light is the more needed because 
few newspapers that wish to maintain their advertising 
revenue, or do not wish to " get on the wrong side " of 
distributing companies, are likely to have the courage 
or to run the risk of saying what all of them know. 
Yet, to say what he knows upon matters of public 
interest is the proper business of a journalist. So I 
have written what I know. 

More light is also needed upon circulations, less as 
a guarantee to advertisers than as a means of assessing 
the true influence of the Press. A wealthy owner of 
many shares in a " group " of newspaper companies 
observed, not long ago, that a circulation of two millions 
is now merely a " commercial question." He meant 
that if enough inducements of various sorts none of 
them connected with journalism proper are offered to 
the public, any kind of " popular " newspaper can be 
made to reach the two million mark. In this somewhat 
arrogant statement from a magnate of the newspaper 
industry there is some truth and some exaggeration. 
The truth is that if a paper can offer enough attractions 
and benefits to induce a million or two of hypothetical 
readers to buy it, advertisement agents can be relied 
upon to cover the cost of those inducements and to 
leave the paper a substantial profit. The paper must, 
of course, be " popular " and devote a large proportion 
of its " editorial " space to prize fights, film stars, 
" suggestive " illustrations and other matter which the 
masses are believed to prefer. It must also offer com- 

petitions and " must be won " prizes, or gifts of books 
below cost price. In a word, it must relegate journalism 
proper to a very subordinate position and go in for 
grocery of the baser sort, the sort that gives away some- 
thing with a pound of tea. The influence of such papers 
upon the opinions of those who take it in, or are taken 
in by it, bears no ascertainable relationship to its 
circulation returns. And lest it weary its public by over- 
insistence on things that really matter, or by attempting 
consistently to instruct its readers and fashion their 
thoughts, it must " vary its appeal " by making its 
pages a rag bag. 

There are exceptions to this rule even among the 
" popular " Press. One journal, the Daily Express, 
which possesses a circulation of well over two millions, 
laid the foundation of its prosperity by legitimate 
journalism. It beat all its competitors, again and again, 
by being first with the news. It gave, sometimes it still 
gives, real news, more promptly and more fully than 
its competitors. It does not long suppress or even 
persistently hide news which is unwelcome to it; and 
it has been known to counteract the interested foreign 
propaganda in which some of its contemporaries indulge 
by sending representatives of its own to search out and 
to tell the truth. Newspapers of this kind deserve to 
succeed. The Daily Express has succeeded in sufficient 
measure, by worthy journalism, to make its lapses into 
the lower forms of catch-penny huckstering a matter 
for regret. 

Among the more recent triumphs of sounder 
journalism has been the phenomenal increase in the 
circulation of the Daily Telegraph since it came under 
the control of Lord Camrose, formerly head of the 
4W Berry Group." At its price of one penny it competes 
on equal terms with the "registered reader," prize- 
offering "popular" papers, though it abstains from 
these dubious devices. Not only does it offer fuller 


information than they upon many serious topics, but 
it frequently prints as many pages as the twopenny 
Times. It has taken away scores, perhaps hundreds of 
thousands, of subscribers from Lord Rothermere's 
Daily Mail] and since its absorption of the Morning Post 
in 1937 it has retained in its circulation of over 650,000 
copies at least 100,000 of the former readers of that 
journal. Were the Daily Telegraph to pursue an inde- 
pendent public policy it might aspire to an influence 
unsurpassed by that of any other paper. With a 
" soul " of its own it could become a truly " leading " 
journal comparable in the quality of its power to great 
provincial dailies like the Manchester Guardian or the 
Yorkshire Post. 

The circulation of The Times was long, and to some 
extent still is, restricted by its price, for in few respects 
is the newspaper-reading public meaner than in the 
price it is willing to pay for a good newspaper. In 
1908, when Lord Northchffe gained control of The 
Times, its circulation at the price of threepence was, 
as I have said, well below 40,000. For some years he 
sought by every means his fertile brain could devise 
including the " brightening " and, in some ways, the 
actual improvement of its contents and make-up to 
increase its sales without lowering its price. The net 
result, after four years of effort, was disappointing. 
In 1912 the price was reduced to twopence and the 
circulation rose by about 10,000. Half-convinced by this 
experiment that price was the real obstacle to an increase 
of circulation, Northchffe decided, early in 1914, to 
make The Times a penny paper so that it could compete 
on equal terms with" the Daily Telegraph and the 
Morning Post. (The Daily Mail and other " popular " 
journals weic then sold at a halfpenny.) He thought 
the change would be a dangerous gamble and was 
convinced that either The Times or one of its two penny 
rivals would i uccumb. Nor did he believe that at a penny 

the circulation of The Times would permanently exceed 
80,000. This belief he backed by offering bets to 
members of his staff. He lost them all. The orders 
for the first issue of The Times at a penny were in the 
neighbourhood of 650,000, more than it could easily 
print, and in a few weeks it had settled down to a sale 
of 165,000 copies, which was considerably larger than 
the circulations of either the Daily Telegraph or the 
Morning Post. 

In the early months of the War, which broke out 
in August, 1914, the circulations of all newspapers 
went up, that of The Times at a penny sometimes ex- 
ceeding 300,000. But the cost of newsprint likewise 
increased and presently compelled all newspapers either 
to increase their selling price or to diminish their size 
or both. The half-penny newspapers had to become 
penny papers. The penny papers had to become 2d. 
though, for a period, The Times halted midway at the 
awkward price of l|d. At an equal price of 2d the 
circulation of The Times was always ahead of that of 
the Daily Telegraph, but when the cost of its special 
white newsprint compelled The Times to revert to its 
old price of 3d., the Daily Telegraph, printed on slightly 
inferior paper at 2d., again took the lead. 

The most interesting thing about these changes of 
price was their effect on circulation. Even at a moment 
when money was plentiful, and soldiers in the trenches 
or on leave at home had ready cash at their disposal, 
every increase of one halfpenny in the price of The 
Times meant a fell of some 30,000 in circulation. 
Though at the end of the War The Times was still 
selling 120,000 copies daily at 3d., or nearly twice as 
many as it had ever sold before at that figure, it was 
clear that with the return to peace conditions its price 
would have to come down, Northchffe suddenly 
reduced it by one half again to lid., id. lower than 
the Daily Telegraph early in 1922. This reduction 


involved heavy financial loss for a time, but the circula- 
tion rose immediately by more than 60,000 copies 
daily; and before the end of 1922 it had increased to 
well over 200,000. A subsequent return to the price 
of 2d. cost another drop from which its circulation 
slowly recovered. According to figures supplied by 
The Times in 1936 to the authoress of The English Press, 
it was then selling 195,843 copies at 2d. The totals 
given for 1937 in the P.E.P. Report on the British Press 
were 192,000 for The Times as compared with 637,000 
for the Daily Telegraph. 

Still, the discrepancy between even a 200,000 circula- 
tion of The Times at 2d. and a 650,000 circulation of 
the Daily Telegraph at Id. would be wide enough to 
suggest that price is a main factor in the diffusion of a 
newspaper. Given equalitv of price, and equal journa- 
listic ability in their production, there would be no 
reason why The Times should not sell as many copies 
as the Daily Telegraph or even more; and it seems 
regrettable that, in these days of mass circulations which 
amount to a total of more than 11,500,000 copies of 
newspapers daily, the appeal of some of the more 
educative organs of the Press like The Times and the 
Manchester Guardian should be restricted by the factor 
of price. 

If the chief function of the Press is still thought to 
be that of informing, instructing and educating the 
public, one further development of modern journalism 
ought to be considered. Fifty years ago the educated 
classes of this country relied upon the monthly and 
quarterly reviews for instruction upon matters of 
intellectual and scientific interest. Notwithstanding the 
high prices charged for them, these reviews enjoyed 
circulations which are beyond the dreams of their 
present owners, or of the owners of such of them as 
still survive. The old Nineteenth Century, Contemporary 

and Fortnightly, among the monthly reviews, and the 
Quarterly and the Edinburgh among the quarterly 
reviews, w^re able to attract contributors of the first 
rank and to pay them well. One has only to think of 
the excitement aroused in the late eighties of last 
century by the controversy between Gladstone and 
Huxley upon 77? Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture, 
or by Gladstone's review of Mrs. Humphry Ward's 
Robert Elsmere in the Nineteenth Century, to appreciate 
the difference and, in some respects, the falling off 
between then and now A journalist of genius, the 
late W. T. Stead, understood the eagerness of a much 
wider circle of readers than could afford to buy these 
expensive reviews to gain access to the fine writing which 
they contained. Therefore he founded his Review of 
Reviews at 6d. In a few years it reached a monthly 
circulation of 88,000 copies. 

To-day conditions have changed. Daily newspapers 
compete for " features " with the reviews and, thanks 
to large circulations and enormous incomes, are able to 
pay well-known writers on a scale with which high-class 
periodicals could not compete, even if these were not 
crippled by the indifference or the hostility of advertisers. 
Daily papers can, moreover, publish the work of their 
contributors more promptly than reviews are able to 
do, and thus ensure that what they publish will not be 
out of date by the time it is printed. Even so, a daily 
paper can hardly do duty for a high-class periodical 
either in the provision of space for careful treatment 
of important subjects or in permanence of form. In 
this respect the gradual squeezing out of the reviews 
is a serious loss. 

Some modern newspapers, chiefly in the United 
States, seek to bridge the gap between things of lasting 
and things of passing interest by publishing " magazines " 
of their own. In this they "are wise, wiser than the 
majority of British newspapers. The remarkable success 


of the Listener, which reprints, week by week, the 
" talks " broadcast from the studios of the B.B.C., 
shows that the public appetite for sound information 
can be under-estimated by journalists or newspaper 
proprietors who trade upon what they imagine to be 
the public liking for vulgar trivialities. The day may 
come when a newspaper-maker of genius will under- 
stand how wide the field already is for journalism of 
a better sort and will cultivate it through a popular 
daily paper. It would be an auspicious day for the 
British Press. 



IN the last week of May, 1937, the British "Empire 
Press Union " held its Annual Conference in London 
A feeling of modesty, in more than one sense of the 
term, may have restrained British newspapers from 
publishing extensive reports of its proceedings, though 
several of the addresses it heard would have been worthy 
of public attention. Chief among them was a reasoned 
analysis of journalism by the veteran J. A. Spender 
who, dm ing his editorship of the old " sea-green " 
Westminster Gazette, had more influence upon British 
public opinion than any other editor of an evening paper 
since the beginning of the century. 

The spirit of his remarks was the breath of the older 
journalism which never forgot that the freedom of 
newspapers from official control carries with it a high 
measure of public trusteeship, or that this trusteeship 
is the warrant for the claim of journalists to a special 
place in public life. What he said stood out m sharp 
relief against some passages in an earlier address given 
by Mr. Tom Clarke, sometime news editor of Lord 
Northcliffe's Daily Mail, afterwards editor of the News- 
Chromcle, and latterly Director of Practical Journalism 
at London University 

Speaking of modern popular journals as products of 
the newspaper revolution which began with the present 
century, Mr. Tom Clarke wondered whether all that 
the revolution achieved is as good as those who helped 
to bring it about imagined it would be, " For," he 

16; r 

added, " we have seen the transformation of the Press 
into one of the major industries of Britain." He went 
on to say that he had received a letter addressed to him 
not as the Director of Practical Journalism at London 
University but as the Director of " Commercial " 
Journalism. Admitting the shrewdness of this apparent 
error, he said : 

Quite frankly I doubt if there is nowadays any other sort 
of journalism, and I am not ashamed to say that I have 
always tried to assist the commercial success of any news- 
paper I have worked for. There is, after all, no special 
virtue in commercial failure; and, despite all the Jeremiahs, 
I am not prepared yet to believe that, in the world as it is, 
commercialisation of the Press has been the evil some 
people think. It can, I think, be argued that it has been good 
for the public and good for the Press, and has rid us of a 
lot of humbug. 

Continuing, Mr. Tom Clarke repeated a remark made 
to his students of journalism by Colonel the Hon. 
E. F. Lawson of the Daily Telegraph. Colonel Lawson 
had been listening to one or two speeches from half- 
fledged students who in Mr. Tom Clarke's words 
" still believed that newspaper work was, in the first 
place, a sort of idealistic crusade for the betterment of 
the world." So Colonel Lawson said: "Newspapers, 
I think, resemble fashionable ladies of the West End 
in that they are more concerned with their figures than 
with their morals"' 

This commercialisation of the Press, Mr. Tom Clarke 
observed with truth, has had a profound effect on 
editorial status. He doubted whether there were more 
than three newspaper editors, in the old sense of the 
word, left in the whole of London and he defined the 
outstanding feature of the newspaper revolution as 
having been " the gradual transfer of the balance of 
power, in the matter of control, from the Editorial to 
the Business side. The economics of this new Press are 


different from those of any other industry. Although 
the first duty of a newspaper must remain the supply 
of reliable and first-class editorial comment, it is obvious 
that, after all, the business is concerned chiefly with the 
value of its advertising and the cost of its newsprint. 
The Press has become too highly mechanised for the 
old system of complete editorial hegemony." 

Then Mr. Tom Clarke, as the Director of Practical 
Journalism, committed himself to this revealing 
statement : 

Where the editorial man to-day most differs from his 
forerunners is that he must have a sound and sympathetic 
understanding of all other departments. When he becomes 
an editor he should invite his circulation man and his 
advertising man to his conferences. The one knows what 
the public are interested in and how and where to get them. 
The other, while not interfering in purely editorial matters, 
can help in preserving the balance of the paper and saving 
such needless folly as putting the report of a fatal motor 
smash alongside of a motoi advertisement (The italics are 
mine.) The editor is still responsible for all that appears 
in the paper and, after all, the advertising side supplies 
half of it. 

This is the bluntest description of " practical " or 
*" commercial " journalism I have yet seen in a country 
whose Press still claims freedom and would have people 
believe that it is free. Far be it from me to challenge 
the accuracy of Mr. Tom Clarke's definition as applied 
to " popular," dividend-seeking, bonus-share-distributing 
fiuits of the newspaper industry. I would only suggest 
to those who accept this definition as comprehending 
the whole duty of journalists, editors, and even of 
newspaper proprietors, that they should pause and 
reflect whether their conception of public duty is com- 
patible with the continued existence of a free Press 
at all, and whether they may not be preparing the way 

F 2 


for another newspaper revolution that will make of them 
bond-slaves in appearance no less than in reality. 

It was upon this subject for reflection that Mr. J. A. 
Spender dwelt with deep insight, " If I were a German 
or a Russian or an Italian," he said, " and were asked 
what is the status of a journalist in my country, I should 
have to answer that he has no status at all and must 
consider himself lucky not to be in prison or in a con- 
centration camp." Mr. Spender added : 

The position of the Press is one of the fundamental tests 
of the nature of government, and that it should thus be 
reduced in so many countries is a fact with which all of us, 
and most of all Governments and Ministers who arc- 
responsible for foreign affairs, have to reckon. One half 
of Europe has no means of free self-expression, and, so far 
as its rulers can determine it, is shut off from moral, 
intellectual and political intercourse with its neighbours 
When we (journalists) are considering our position and 
status, we must think of it against this background. 

There has been nothing quite like it in the history of the 
world Emperors, ecclesiastics and other kinds of dictators 
in the Middle Ages would no doubt have liked to keep at 
a distance all opinions which they thought dangerous, but 
they were left without the apparatus for doing so. Preaching 
friars went from country to country , famous teachers and 
wandering scholars passed from university to university ; 
their books, written in Latin, wh xh was the lingua franca of 
all educated people, were read in every country by the 
politically influential classes In this way there was a 
common fund of thought and opinion which even in the 
most autocratic countries saved the pool of knowledge 
from becoming stagnant. What in our days, I wonder, 
would happen to Erasmus, that greatest of journalists, 
who went from Court to Court all over Europe, who lectured 
everywhere and whose pamphlets and letters were eagerly 
read wherever intelligent people thought about Church and 
State. It seems to me quite certain that any one of the 


modern dictators would have laid him by the heels as 
soon as he appeared on their frontiers. 

Nothing, Mr. Spender went on, has so brought home 
to journalists in countries where the Press is still 
supposed to be free, a sense of the part free journalism 
should play, as the extinction of free journalism in 
totalitarian countries. He quoted a book by a dis- 
tinguished French writer and Communist, M. Andre 
Gide, which recorded M. Gide's disillusionment on 
finding the people of Russia in complete ignorance of 
what was happening elsewhere and consequently in a 
state of self-conceit which seemed to him almost in- 
credible. They were persuaded that everything done in 
their own country was far in advance of anything done 
elsewhere, and they had ceased to learn foreign languages 
because they had nothing to learn from foreign countries. 
This, M. Gide reflects, was because the official Press, 
their sole means of information (apart from the official 
radio) told them daily a flattering tale and denounced 
everything incompatible with it as a malicious lie. 

I would add, for my part, that what is true of Russia 
is scarcely less true of Italy and Germany. People's 
minds are imprisoned and are bereft of light and air. 
Nor does the suppression of criticism and free comment 
work in one direction only. If it prevents the people of 
countries under dictatorship from knowing what is 
being thought and said and done abroad, it prevents all 
but the most discerning newspaper readers in free 
countries from understanding the position in dictatorship 
countries. Foreign newspaper correspondents in those 
countries are heavily handicapped. They live under 
constant supervision; they may be expelled at any 
moment; and quite apart from the censorship which 
controls their work, it is dangerous for them to write 
or to suggest the truth lest they be arrested and charged 
with hostility to the State. At the same time the editors 
and the editorial writers of their papers at home have 


to bear in mind that plain speaking on their part, 
m their own countries, may be visited upon their 
correspondents, or that every copy of an issue of their 
papers may be seized in totalitarian countries should it 
contain matter unpalatable to the authorities. Hence 
correspondents are tempted to use a kind of secret 
language, and to take refuge in ambiguities which 
attentive experts understand but which bewilder the 
mass of newspaper readers. 

Nor does the evil stop here. Totalitarian Governments 
often profess to desire peace and friendship with 
countries where the Press and public opinion are still 
comparatively free. So foreign criticism and the 
publication of unpleasant facts are deplored as tending 
" to impede friendship and to endanger peace." More- 
over, when independent and well-informed writers in 
free countries comment truthfully upon the doings of 
totalitarian Governments, the ambassadors or other 
emissaries of those Governments lose no time in suggest- 
ing to newspaper proprietors or editors that the publica- 
tion of contributions from such writers " irritate " the 
dictators and are therefore dangerous. Newspaper 
proprietors, editors and special writers are invited to 
visit totalitarian countries, as the guests of their Govern- 
ments, so that " friendly personal relations " may be 
established and " good will " be promoted. They 
are shown what it is thought advisable that they should 
see, and nothing they should nc t see. Not a few of these 
visitors return more than half-persuaded that a totali- 
tarian system works well among the peoples who have 
" adopted " it, however unsuited they may think it to 
their own countries. 

In these and other ways totalitarian States manage, 
in effect, to restrain foreign criticism without causing 
public resentment. Herr Hitler has, it is true, publicly 
demanded that British newspapers be brought under 
Government control, at least to the extent of suppressing 


criticism of himself or of Nazi Germany. And he 
threatened Great Britain with a "National Socialist 
answer " if this were not done. To him more than 
one British journal made sturdy answer. Others, with 
proud traditions to uphold, expostulated feebly and 
sought to appease his wrath. They forgot that in dealing 
with bullies meekness is a vice. 

This indirect control of the Press in free countries 
by the pressure or the blandishments of dictatorships 
is doubly harmful to free countries themselves. Without 
full information, the public opinion of those countries 
cannot serve as a guide to Governments or to Parlia- 
ment; and where informed public opinion ceases to 
act upon Governments a safeguard of public freedom is 
lost. A premium is put upon intrigue, and there is no 
check upon the whispering campaigns which the agents 
of dictatorships, or their foreign dupes, may start 
against the Ministers of free countries who withstand 
totalitarian ambitions. Rumours are spread that the 
retention of office by such Ministers impedes the im- 
provement of relations between the totalitarian country 
and his own. And, in the last resort, they may be com- 
pelled to resign as " obstacles to international concord/' 
Not so very long ago a British Minister was allowed to 
leave office in circumstances of this kind, and on the 
very day when he was publicly denounced by a foreign 
dictator as a man of inferior judgment ! A long process 
of " commercialised " degeneration in the " free " 
British Press had preceded this crowning disgrace. 

In his address to the Empire Press Union Conference 
in 1937 Mr. J. A. Spender could not refer to all these 
effects of the curtailment of journalistic freedom, for 
some of them were not visible when he spoke. But 
he drew attention to a significant change which totali- 
tarian influences threaten to bring about in the theory 
of government itself. Whether we like it or not, he 


said, we have to reckon with the fact that serious people, 
even in this country, hold doctrines upon methods of 
government which are quite incompatible with the 
existence of a free Press. These doctrines are held 
equally by politicians of the Right and those of the Left 
by the Right which fears revolutions, and toys with 
the idea of " planned " or " planning government on 
the Fascist or Nazi model," and by the Left which 
thinks of government as the universal provider and 
toys with the idea of making it the business of experts. 
Now if, as these people seem to believe, government is a 
science of which the principles and the methods are 
known only to experts, it is folly to let ignorant or 
inexpert persons meddle with expert wisdom. But the 
whole idea of freedom, and therefore of free criticism 
and a free Press, depends upon the conception of 
government as an art, not as a science, an art of infinite 
variety and fallibility requiring constant adjustment 
to the changing tastes, needs and interests of human 
beings and of the human mind. If we believe govern- 
ment to be an art, Mr. Spender argued, a free Press 
contributes to the proper practice of this art by giving 
voice to the changing needs, fashions, and moods of a 
free people; and the status of the journalist, if he does 
his duty honestly, is high and secure. If, on the other 
hand, government is regarded as an exact science of which 
the principles can be known only to a select company 
of experts, the free journalist is a presumptuous busy- 
body, and a free Press impedes progress by its brawling. 
Nor (I would interpolate) is this all. It is not enough 
that the people of Great Britain and the nations of the 
British Commonwealth should hold as they have 
hitherto held government to be an art and not a 
science ; it is also essential that the Press itself should 
be free from internal as from external shackles, and 
that it should deserve a degree of respect commensurate 
with its rightful function and high standing in a free 


community. If it invades the sphere of individual 
freedom and intrudes on privacy in its itch for " stories 
of human interest " to increase circulation and " com- 
mercial " prosperity, it forfeits this respect. And if it 
becomes a slave to its own mechanical efficiency and 
to the vast agglomerations of real or watered capital 
employed in the " newspaper industry " it will have 
gained vast circulations and " earned " large dividends 
at the price of its own poverty-stricken soul. 

As a journalistic veteran of more than fifty years' 
standing Mr. Spender recognised that journalism is 
to-day far more " efficient " than it was when he first 
came on the scene. He said : 

Its enterprise in news-getting, the skill and daring of 
those who serve it, tested alike in peace and war, its success 
in distributing its wares by land, sea and air, all this is an 
extraordinary achievement. Nor is it a just complaint 
that at a time when our daily work is dull and mechanical 
it should seek to amuse its readers and piovide them with 
the daily variety show which enlivens the pages of so many 
of our most successful papers. To give the public what it 
wants is a legitimate object so long as the goods provided 
are honest and unadulterated. 

Only a churlish spoil-sport will pull a long face over the 
increase of innocent pleasure and amusement that is 
provided in this way. But when we are speaking of the 
status of the journalist we are bound to remember that any 
respect or prestige that he enjoys beyond others who are 
competing in this business depends on the belief that the 
Press is the great exponent of public opinion, and a feailess 
and independent critic of the conduct of international 
affairs. If it is not in some measure this, there is no reason 
why the journalist should stand higher in public esteem 
than other public entertainers. 

Here, once again, Mr. Spender hit the nail on the 
head. It was, he rightly urged, the journalism of 
opinion, the expression of views as distinguished from 
the providing of news, which was the source of the 


authority and prestige of the British Press in former 
days. It was concerned chiefly with politics which, 
being interpreted, mean public affairs. The space now 
given to politics has steadily declined. Newspapers 
fought a long fight, in bygone days, for the right to 
publish reports of debates in Parliament. Now Parlia- 
mentary reports are condensed and treated under 
different heads; and in the most widely-circulated 
newspapers Parliamentary speeches are hardly reported 
at all. " Slogans " and headlines take the place of 
argument. In the little space allotted to him an editorial 
writer has no room to argue. He must assert and lay 
down the law. Of the seven evening papers (most of 
them journals of opinion) which were published in 
London fifty years ago, from dingy little offices down 
side streets and with circulations altogether contemptible 
by modern standards, only three now survive, and of 
these three though Mr. Spender did not say this 
not one can claim to be truly a journal of opinion. Yet 
those older evening papers, with their puny circulations, 
were pulpits from which great journalists like Greenwood, 
Morley and Stead were heard all over the country and 
sometimes shook the world. 

The danger to-day is that men like these may no 
longer take to journalism as their profession. Very 
few necks would have to be severed to make an end 
of political journalism in the modern Press. Mr. 
Spender said that if he had a Uf opia of his own he would 
let no newspaper have a circulation of more than 
300,000 copies. Then we should have four or five 
newspapers where we now have one, and four or five 
times as many journals as there now are. 

To my mind Mr. Spender's Utopian restriction 
would not get at the root of the trouble. Papers with 
legally limited circulations would still have to pay their 
\vay ; and the question is whether any journal of opinion 


could to-day pay its way in view of the cost of mechanical 
production, difficulties of distribution and of the un- 
likelihood that it would appeal to readers with an 
appetite for pictures, " snippets," " human stories," the 
antics of film stars, football competitions and the profits 
of * professional bruisers. On this point the evidence 
of Mr. Spender himself, as given in the second volume 
of his admirable work Life, Journalism and Politics, 
is enlightening. No British evening paper and very 
few, if any, morning papers can have been better written 
or conducted in a purer spirit of clean journalism than 
was the Westminster Gazette under his editorship. 
Yet its normal circulation was never higher than 20,000 
copies, even if it touched 25,000 during the South 
African war of 1899-1902 and rose again to about 
27,000 during the Great War. It never paid its way. 
Something like 500,000 was spent upon it during the 
thirty years of its existence, and its losses varied from 
5,000 to 15,000 a year. There were one or two years 
in which it almost made ends meet, but the competition 
of inferior papers and the rise of the general level of 
costs threw it back. When at last it was turned into a 
morning paper and was ultimately absorbed by the 
Dally Chronicle the prospects were that it would have 
lost 20,000 a year by holding on its course. 

Why was it not possible for a journal of opinion 
of this high type to make its way in London ? The 
answer is that it put its leading article on its front page, 
made politics its chief concern, and laid itself out to 
convert and to persuade by its writing. Its appeal was 
lo the politicians when they assembled in the House 
of Commons, and to serious readers who wished to 
have something to think about in their leisure hours. 
The appeal was therefore deliberately to the few, and 
the trouble was, and is, that these few were and are so 
few. It was not enough that Frederick Greenwood in 
the old Pall Mall Gazette, or John Morley or W. T. 


Stead in the later Pall Mall Gazette, or Sir Edward Cook 
or Mr. Spender in the Westminster Gazette should write 
for a select audience of politically-instructed readers. 
Nor was it enough that those readers were the makers 
of opinion from whom a wide influence radiated out- 
wards. Nor, from the standpoint of the survival. of 
those newspapers, could it suffice that all other journalists 
read them and drew inspiration from their articles. The 
public whose pence were needed to keep such newspapers 
alive hardly numbered 50,000 in London, or 100,000 
in the whole country ; and of these potential subscribers 
no single newspaper could hope to attract more than 
30,000 a circulation insufficient to command an 
advertisement revenue equal to the cost of production, 
even when revenue from sales was added on. "Popular" 
papers, with big " net sales " certificates, seemed to 
advertisers better " business propositions." 

Then there was the difficulty of distribution. A serious 
journal of opinion, unable to pay its way, could not afford 
a multitude of newspaper carts or distributing vans. It 
had to rely upon regular subscribers whose name was 
not legion. In his book Mr. Spender asks whether the 
problem of the journal of opinion is really insoluble. 
He quotes Northcliffe, who always held the Westminster 
Gazette in high regard, in support of his opinion that it 
is not. Northcliffe used to say that if he had owned the 
Westminster he would have made it pay in six months 
without changing its character :>r its politics. He would 
have saved the expense on a separate office, would have 
distributed the paper through his own efficient organisa- 
tion, and would have turned on his army of canvassers 
to increase its sales. Whether he would then have left 
its character unchanged is a very open question. Mr. 
Spender believes that the pcpprietors of one of the mass- 
circulation " popular " papers could establish a journal 
of opinion and make it pay, but he doubts whether they 
would resist the temptation then to change its character 


until it became merely a duplicate of one of their other 
publications. He finds the thought depressing that there 
should not be room for even one newspaper of opinion 
in the greatest and most populous city in the world, 
and says he dreams sometimes of a newspaper which 
should boldly rely upon quality rather than quantity 
of circulation and give its advertisers a guarantee that 
it would never sell more than 100,000 copies per day. 

I, for my part, think it highly improbable that any 
present proprietor of a popular newspaper will establish 
or care to establish such a journal of opinion as that of 
which Mr. Spender dreams The value of a journal of 
opinion would depend upon the quality of the opinions 
expressed; and no opinion of quality upon current 
public affairs is likely to be expressed save by an editor 
or an editorial writer of strong mind, deep conviction and 
forceful personality Newspaper proprietors to-day 
dislike editors and editorial writers of strong personality. 
They prefer that their own personalities should be served 
by expert scribes who can be trusted to advocate what- 
ever view the proprietors may wish to proclaim. In 
the old days many proprietors cared not only for the 
freedom of the Pressthat is, the right of the Press to 
say whatever it thought the public interest required, 
without interference Irom Governments but they cared 
also for freedom as a good in itself. To-day they appear 
to care little for freedom m itself and do not perceive 
that by placing the Press in bondage to financial or 
" commercial " interests they are helping to destroy 
journalistic and to undermine public freedom. The 
very magnitude of their financial " interests " renders 
them peculiarly susceptible to the influence of doctrines 
which put the defence of property higher than the 
defence of freedom , and though they may disapprove 
of the complete bondage in which the Press has been 
placed by Soviet Russia, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, 


they fail to instil into the readers of their journals a 
sense of the danger this complete bondage implies to 
the free civilisation of democratic countries and to the 
freedom of the Press itself. 

To the status of the Press in Russia reference has 
already been made. It serves as an instrument of 
government m a totalitarian State as, indeed, journalism 
does in Italy and Germany. At the same time it is 
not easy to gainsay the critical verdict upon the freedom 
of the British Press which forms the conclusion of two 
volumes entitled Die Presse Grosshntanmens which were 
published by a German official writer, Dr. Max 
Griinbeck, in 1936, with the approval of Dr. Ernst 
Hanfstaengel, who was then chief of the Foreign Press 
department of the German National Socialist or Nazi 
Party. This work, which contains a detailed history 
of the British Press, sums up its author's conclusions 
as follows : 

Especially in recent years British newspaper men and 
politicians insist that Great Britain and the United States 
of America are countries where the Press is absolutely free. 
This might be warranted to a large extent if " the freedom 
of the Press " meant its freedom m relation to the State. 
But the claim is absolutely unfounded if one takes into 
consideration the strong degree of economic dependence 
m which the modern British Press finds itself. The economic 
success of an English newspaper is so overwhelmingly 
dependent upon its advertisement columns that the 
advertiser has been able to develop into a Press dictator 
who, as such, plays a part far more dangerous than that 
of the State since in the majority of cases his influence is 
secret, entirely selfish and not susceptible of control. 
Besides, the whole make-up of the English popular papers 
is to-day the clearest example of their economic dependence 
upon advertisements. So advertisers exert influences which, 
m effect, are scarcely less efficacious than restrictions of 
newspaper freedom by the State itself. When Lord 
Rothermere's papers gave vigorous support for a time to 


the Fascist movement in England their initiative was 
throttled in a few weeks by their advertisement department. 
This economic dependence of the British Press and its 
editors is equally plain in the financial and commercial 
newspapers; and even newspaper freedom from State 
influence is by no means unlimited as it is often supposed 
to be. The State has various possibilities of influencing 
newspapers ; and, particularly at critical moments, old and 
half-forgotten laws like the Official Secrets Act can be 
brought forward to throw serious shadows upon the halo of 
British newspaper freedom 

Even if it be true that the fears which monopolisation of 
the Press might have inspired have not hitherto been fullv 
realised, it is nevertheless undeniable that, despite its splendid 
technique and the variety of its contents, a great part of the 
British Press has become a very poor thing. The power it 
once possessed to lead and to influence public opinion is 
heavily shaken. . . . The intellectual level of English 
papers, especially that of the leading London journals which 
was once so high, has fallen considerably In exchange 
there has been an astonishing economic success which finds 
expression in immense circulations, high profits and divi- 
dends and large turnovers. This it was that caused Paul de 
Sury d'Aspremont to write in his book LaPressea Trovers 
les Ages : " The soul of a people ought to be in its Press, 
but this Press in the hands of a few financial magnates may 
murder its soul by corruption instead of directing it " 
Hardly ever can there have been r case in which Balzac's 
sentence hit the nail on the head with so few exceptions as 
in the case of the British Press : kt The newspaper which 
should have been a shrine became an instrument, and from 
being an instrument became a business." 

If this verdict is inspired in part by resentment that 
advertisers in the Rothermere Press should have checked 
its support of the Nazi-Fascist organisations in England, 
and should thus, for once in a way, have used their 
influence for the salutary end of helping to safeguard 
public freedom, it contains criticisms which no fair- 
minded observer can dismiss as wholly unwarranted. 


However pertinent those criticisms may be, the best 
answer to them is that there remains enough freedom 
of the Press in this country to permit of their publication ; 
and the fact that no similar criticism of the State- 
controlled Press could be published in Russia, Italy or 
Germany is the aptest comment upon the position in 
those countries. We, for our part, have to consider 
whether "commercial journalism" can ever be free 
journalism and, if not, how the freedom and economic 
independence of the Press can be preserved without 
crippling subservience to commercial and financial 
interests. For this is one of the main aspects of the 
problem of our political and individual liberty. 



No English law affirms explicitly the freedom of the 
Press, and not a few English laws explicitly curtail it. 
If this were all, the Press could have no grievance 
against the law. Its freedom would be neither more 
nor less than the freedom of individual citizens to do 
ai> they please as long as they do not transgress the law. 
Nor can the Press reasonably complain that its power 
of publicity which is far greater than the power of 
any individual should be surrounded by safeguards 
against abuse. On this ground alone a law, even a 
drastic law, of libel would be justified. The grievance 
of the Press, under the law or the laws of libel now 
existing, is that newspapers have little expectation of 
getting impartial justice if they are prosecuted for libel. 
And this prospective denial of justice not only restricts 
their freedom to serve the community but exposes them 
to extortion. 

Save under the " Incitement to Disaffection Act " of 
1934 neither a man nor a newspaper can be prosecuted 
for an alleged offence until he or it has actually com- 
mitted or attempted to commit the offence. Un- 
doubtedly the " Official Secrets Act," and the laws 
bearing upon the protection of public morals and the 
defence of the State against sedition, do threaten the 
freedom of the Press in arbitrary ways. But if these 
be left out of account the prospect of a denial of justice 
to newspapers lies mainly in the usual methods of legal 
procedure for alleged " contempt of court " and in the 



working of the laws that govern criminal and civil libel. 
Nobody knows exactly what comment upon the conduct 
of a trial may render a newspaper liable to conviction 
for " contempt of court." In principle, " contempt " 
is any criticism of a judge or magistrate that may 
damage his reputation for fairness, or any comment 
upon an action at law or a pending trial that may seem 
likely to create prejudice against the fairness of the 
proceedings in court. But in practice a judge who may 
think himself unfairly criticised by newspaper comment 
upon his conduct of a case can either (if he be really 
fair-minded) refer the matter to the Director of Public 
Prosecutions for trial by jury, or (if he be less fair- 
minded) can have his critic brought before a tribunal 
of other judges who have almost unlimited discretion 
m punishing the newspaper. Against their decision 
there is no appeal. It can only be over-ruled by a Special 
Act of Parliament. 

This method of procedure is calculated to deter, and 
does deter, newspapers from offering reasonable criticism 
upon so important a matter of public interest as the 
administration of justice. If it stands to reason that 
newspapers should be restrained, by heavy penalties, 
from commenting upon a trial before it has taken place 
and from diminishing public confidence in the im- 
partiality of the justice to be administered, it is not 
reasonable that judges should be entitled to ignore the 
legal maxim that 4< none can be Judge in his own cause/' 
Recognition of this anomaly may, indeed, have prompted 
Lord Atkin in 1936 to give the ruling: " Provided that 
members of the public abstain from imputing improper 
motives to those taking part in the administration of 
justice and are generally exercising a right of criticism 
and not acting maliciously or attempting to impair the 
administration of justice, they are immune. Justice is 
not a cloistered virtue." But even this ruling leaves 
judges free to determine whether critics of their adminis- 


tration of justice " are generally exercising a right of 
criticism " and are " not acting maliciously or attempting 
to impair the administration of justice"; and it does 
nothing to check the prevailing methods by which, 
without practical possibility of securing redress for a 
miscarriage of justice, a citizen or a newspaper may 
be punished for " contempt of court " by a juryless 
tribunal consisting only of judges. 

In these circumstances newspapers are chary of 
criticising faults in the administration of justice. Not 
less cautious are they in deciding to take the risk of 
defending an action which may be brought against them 
for alleged libel. Under English law a libel that gives 
ground for a civil action is also ground for a criminal 
prosecution on the plea that any libel tends to a breach 
of the peace. But prosecutions for criminal libel have 
become rare. One reason may be that under the Law 
of Libel Amendment Act of 1888 the consent of a judge 
is necessary for a criminal libel prosecution against a 
newspaper, since judges only give leave if they think a 
civil action unlikely to secure adequate redress. 

The number of actions for civil libel against news- 
papers that actually come into court is small in com- 
parison with the claims for alleged libel which newspapers 
settle out of court. Probably not more than one or, 
at most, 2 per cent, are actually tried. This is because 
the law itself is vague, its interpretation by a judge 
and jury uncertain, and because juries are apt to look 
upon newspapers as fair game for any plaintiff who can 
make out even a flimsy case against them. So, in the 
great majority of cases, newspapers think it more 
prudent to suffer extortion in private than to be out- 
rageously mulcted in public. Let me give a case in point. 

A leading London journal happened to publish a 
letter from a correspondent in which a certain writer, 
who had shown marked sympathy with Russian 
Bolshevism, was mentioned by name. The allusion to 


him was in no way defamatory. But unluckily the 
letter attributed to him the Christian name of another 
writer with the same surname, and this slip had been 
overlooked by the paper's editorial staff. Next day the 
writer whose Christian name had been wrongly used 
asked that the error should be corrected. 

It was corrected immediately, with an editorial apology 
for inadvertence, and the correction was published in 
large type on a page more prominent than that on which 
the offending letter had appeared. But a few weeks 
later the recipient of the apology instructed a lawyer 
to inform the editor that, as his client felt he had suifered 
moral damage from the mistake, notwithstanding its 
inadvertence and the promptness with which it had 
been corrected, he had been advised to take action 
for hbel. 

The editor and the manager of the journal also took 
legal advice. It was to the effect that juries are* so 
hostile to newspapers that it would be expedient to 
pay compensation rather than incur the cost of defending 
a libel action and run the risk of seeing the jury award 
heavy damages to the plaintiff. So several hundred 
pounds were paid as "compensation." 

Similar or worse instances of extortion frequently 
occur. Some shady lawyers make a business of these 
operations. They trade upon the fact that newspapers, 
which have defended themselves in libel actions for 
publishing news or comment, irue in substance and in 
fact, upon matters of indubitable public interest, have 
been condemned to pay heavy damages for a merely 
technical libel upon plaintiffs whom everybody knew to 
be unmitigated rascals. And they do not, as a rule, 
trade in vain. 

A former Lord Chief Justice of England who knew 
the workings of the law of libel, expressed some years 
ago his conviction that no branch of English juris- 
prudence needs more thorough revision than this. 


What is salutary in it, he argued, could be preserved 
and rendered more efficacious as a safeguard against 
defamation if the anomalies and iniquities of the present 
law were swept away. With this opinion every experi- 
enced and responsible journalist must agree. The law 
of libel consists chiefly of inco-ordinated sequences of 
legal precedents and decisions which have become so 
complicated that few writers or publishers dare face 
the consequences of even a technical infringement of it. 
A libel is defined as a defamatory statement in writing, 
printing or other permanent form which exposes any 
person to hatred, ridicule or contempt or tends to 
injure him m his office, profession or trade, unless the 
statement is tk privileged " by having been made in 
Parliament or in the course of a Government enquiry 
or in judicial proceedings or in reports published by 
either House of Parliament. But these " privileges " 
are not absolute. Indeed, there is good legal authority 
for saying that the circumstances which constitute 
privilege cannot be exactly ascertained. 

In practice the decision depends upon the opinion 
of the judge whether or not malicious intent has entered 
into the re-publication of a statement which was once 
privileged. The law defines malice as any corrupt or 
wrong motive or personal spite or ill-will such as a judge 
may hold to have been shown by a reproduction of 
facts originally divulged in Parliament or in the Law 
Courts. In this case privilege ceases to be privileged. 

In another sense the English law of libel may bestow 
privileges that are ludicrously unfair. It has happened 
within the past few years that foreign personages, 
citizens of countries where all personal freedom and 
legal impartiality are suppressed, and where British 
institutions are held up to contempt, have successfully 
availed themselves of our libel laws to muzzle our Press 
and to secure, by legal proceedings or threat of action 
for libel, damages or compensation from British news- 


papers which have fairly criticised, in the public interest, 
the doings and characters of such foreign personages. 
And British courts of law have lent themselves to this 
exemplification of the reactionary paradox : " In the 
name of our principles we deny you freedom, and in 
the name of your principles we claim it from you " ! 
Nor is this all. The responsibility for libel bears little 
relation to the actual responsibility for publishing it. 
It is not only the author of an alleged libel (if he is 
known) who is answerable for whatever damages nay 
be awarded to a plaintiff; the printer, publisher and 
editor are equally and even more directly liable. A 
stronger deterrent to the publication of anything suscep- 
tible of being construed as libel no matter how clearly 
public interest may demand its publication can hardly 
be imagined. Certainly no publisher is anxious to risk 
his capital in producing a book which, however whole- 
some its opinions or statements of fact, may involve 
him in proceedings for libel. Printers, with all their 
rnanifold virtues, are rarely heroic enough to court 
martyrdom. And their several and joint responsibility 
is surrounded by further devices to prevent the escape 
of any or all of the hypothetical delinquents. It is the 
duty of an editor to edit his whole paper, not trusting 
to the accuracy of any report by an expert reporter, and 
being careful to remove blasphemy, sedition and 
obscenity as well as every unfair attack on a public 
man and everything which private individuals may 
take to be defamatory or libellous. Otherwise an editor 
may expose himself, his proprietor and printers to action 
for libel. The only person who may escape is the actual 
author of the libel, since the editor is not bound to 
disclose the author's name except in cases of prosecution 
under the " Official Secrets Act " ; nor can he or the 
owners of a newspaper enforce indemnity or claim 
compensation from the author if they are convicted of 
libel. But the law provides that every newspaper or 


book which is intended to be published or circulated 
must bear the name and address of the printer, who 
can be forced to disclose the name of his employer. 
The system is full of traps for the unwary. 

In addition to a writ for civil libel an application 
to a judge for permission to prosecute for criminal 
hbel is sometimes held in reserve as a means of in- 
timidation. One instance of this kind may be taken 
from the unwritten political history of the past twenty 
years. It can be substantiated by witnesses still living. 
The special correspondent of a British newspaper felt 
bound, in discharge of his duty and in the public interest, 
to record a threatening communication which had been 
improperly made at an International Conference by the 
head of a British Delegation to the head of another 
delegation. After testing the accuracy of the information 
which reached him, the special correspondent telegraphed 
to his journal what he understood the substance of the 
communication to have been. The telegram aroused 
indignation in this country against the head of the 
British Delegation, who lost no time in demanding, 
through members of his official staff, a public denial 
of the charge from the head of the other Delegation 
who had been the object of the threat. The first impulse 
of this gentleman was to refuse to lend himself to any 
denial of what he knew to be true, though he had not 
been the source of the information which reached the 
special correspondent. But under stress of renewed 
pressure from the staff of the chief British delegate, 
who did not refrain from suggesting that the consequences 
of continued refusal might be serious for the other 
delegate's country, he weakly assented to a denial of 
the report that any threat had been used. 

On the strength of this denial a prominent British 
Minister then informed the House of Commons that 
the special correspondent in question had been guilty 
of a " malicious fabrication," and steps were taken in 


London to bring home to him the enormity of his 
offence. The principal legal adviser of his journal, a 
titled London solicitor of undeservedly high standing, 
was approached and induced to write a " lawyer's 
letter " to the proprietor of the journal saying that 
" according to rumours which are flying about " a 
prosecution for criminal libel, involving imprisonment, 
would be applied for and authorised against the special 
correspondent and that, on the evidence available, they 
would lead to his conviction. The wisest course, added 
this egregious lawyer, would be to give satisfaction 4k by 
the prompt dismissal of the offender." 

If this " legal " advice had been followed forthwith 
and the tk offender " dismissed, he might have taken 
action for wrongful dismissal against the proprietor of 
his journal. So the manager of the journal was sent to 
him, " lawyer's letter " in hand, to suggest that his 
resignation, with an apology for his offence, might be 
the best way out. The special correspondent, who knew 
something of lawyers, good and bad, answered that any 
decent office boy in any decent lawyer's office would 
have been ashamed to write this tk lawyer's letter " ; 
that he himself had telegraphed in a guarded form what 
he knew to be true upon a matter of outstanding public 
interest, and that he would be prepared to prove its 
truth with the help of witnesses in a court of law. He 
added that he would be quite willing to go to prison 
if convicted of criminal libel ; but that before conviction 
he would get the head of the British Delegation into the 
witness box and cross-examine him publicly upon the 
evidence before the court 

The rest was silence. The special correspondent was 
not dismissed. The threat of prosecution for criminal 
libel was dropped and nothing more was heard of the 
incident for some years. Then one of the witnesses 
whom the special correspondent would have called in 
his defence, had he been prosecuted, happened to meet 


a British public man who had formerly been a member 
of the chief British Delegate's staff at the International 
Conference, and had taken part, with another highly- 
placed British official, in extorting the denial from the 
head of the foreign delegation. Asked, as a matter of 
historical curiosity, whether the account given in the 
special correspondent's telegram had been true or false, 
this British public man replied : " Of course, every word 
of it was true, but we simply had to get a denial." 

In this particular instance the mere prospect of a 
spirited defence or counter-attack sufficed to stop a 
malicious attempt to use the law of criminal libel against 
the Press for purposes of intimidation. But when such 
cases of libel come before the courts, defence is not always 
a simple matter. The first plea is naturally that the 
statement or statements complained of as being libellous 
represented " the true facts or, alternatively, that they 
constituted fair comment upon a subject of public 
interest." The truth of a statement is no defence in and 
by itself. Public interest that the true facts should be 
made known has to be proved. Now "public interest" 
is a term susceptible of many interpretations. It may, 
for instance, be held that while a minor public interest 
might be served by revealing an individual case of 
corruption or misfeasance, a major public interest might 
be damaged by the destruction of confidence through a 
suggestion that corruption or malpractices were more 
widespread than they could be proved to be. Never- 
theless, the first line of defence m a libel action is usually 
to plead justification and to claim that the words com- 
plained of were true in substance and m fact. This 
plea looks sound. The trouble is that it has to be proved, 
and that in order to escape condemnation the defendant 
must also prove that the whole of the incriminated 
matter was substantially true. If only part of it can 
be shown to be true the plea of justification will not 


stand. And, as a leading King's Counsel showed in the 
Political Quarterly for April, 1935, the defendant is 
responsible "not only for the words complained of in 
their direct and primary meaning, but also for any 
implied or secondary meaning (whether he ever had it 
in mind or not) which the Judge rules that the words 
are capable of bearing and which the jury decides that 
they actually bear." 

Legal proof is notoriously not the same thing as 
ordinary proof. This is where the wits of lawyers 
sharpen themselves against each other, sometimes with 
scant respect for common sense or fairness. And when 
the plea of justification fails because the judge and jury 
have been impressed by some learned legal hair-splitting, 
a defendant newspaper in a libel action may find itself in 
worse case than if the plea had not been put forward. 

There remains " fair comment " as a second line of 
defence. In considering this plea the judge must decide 
whether or not the words used were such as to be com- 
ment upon or inference from facts that had been 
established and, if so, to instruct the jury to decide 
whether they were fair comment or a fair inference 
drawn in good faith. In giving their verdict the jury 
must not consider whether they agree or not with the 
views expressed by the defendant, but only whether 
they think he was fair and honest in expressing his own 
views. On this point the jury decide for themselves. 

A third line of defence ma;, be the plea that a news- 
paper was honestly mistaken, desires to make good its 
mistake, and has actually apologised for it. As a rule, 
admitted mistakes cannot be made grounds of action 
for libel if the author or editor and the printer and 
publisher of them immediately take all steps in their 
power to put them right. But, as I have shown in the 
instance already cited when prompt rectification of and 
apology for a mistake in a Christian name of a writer 
did not save a journal from being blackmailed under 


the law of libel to the tune of several hundred pounds 
the humblest apology may not avail to save a news- 
paper from loss. As a matter of fact newspapers 
frequently prefer to apologise for stating what they 
know to be true and have divulged in the public interest 
rather than enter the maze of pitfalls which surrounds 
the law of libel. 

In the event of permission being given by a judge 
for a criminal legal prosecution with its attendant 
penalties of fine and imprisonment the plea of justifica- 
tion no longer holds good. The alleged criminal must 
prove both that the words complained of were true 
and their publication was for the public benefit. Now 
44 public benefit " is a term even harder to define than 
" public interest." The judge may place his own 
interpretation upon it, and influence the jury in so 
doing, and the court may decide that the alleged 
criminal had no right to give the public information 
which he thought it to the " public benefit " to give. 
It is to criminal libel that the legal paradox applies: 
fcw The greater the truth the greater the libel." For in a 
criminal prosecution it is not the truth of the libel that 
is mainly in question but whether, in the opinion of 
the court, it was expedient " for the public benefit " 
that the truth should be made known. If a judge and 
jury think it was not expedient, the truth-teller for 
fck the public benefit " may find reason to rue his zeal. 

These are some of the drawbacks of British libel law. 
The general purpose of the law is doubtless wholesome 
and some of its effects are salutary. There cannot be 
the slightest " public interest" in saving journalistic 
and other defendants in a libel action from the con- 
sequences of the publication of lies or of defamatory 
diatribes inspired by hatred or malice. Nor is it " for 
the public benefit" that delinquencies of this kind 
should go unpunished. What " public interest " demands 


is that these necessary safeguards of personal honour or 
private welfare should not be susceptible of being 
twisted in such a way as to favour the unscrupulously 
guilty rather than the honestly innocent. For this is 
what the present law of libel actually does. Indirectly, 
too, it compels newspapers to study the intricacy of the 
legal network so as to find out how far they can go 
without being caught. Most newspapers employ one 
or more experienced lawyers to do what no editor can 
always do bear in mind the technicalities of libel and 
get round them by technicalities of expression. When 
an editor feels bound to expose some abuse in the 
public interest and for the public benefit, prudence will 
lead him to have the exposure read with a magnifying 
glass by competent lawyers before publication, so that 
the objects of the exposure or their legal advisers may 
search it in vain for some peg on which to hang a libel 
action. Few experiences in journalism are more satis- 
factory than to find that a trenchant attack upon some 
profitable piece of rascality has been so phrased as to 
foil the law-hounds of the interested rascals. 

In political controversy, too, a double dose of pre- 
ventive cunning may stand a newspaper in good stead. 
1 remember one instance in which a prominent news- 
paper insisted that a public man of marked political 
agility would not be the best representative of his 
country at an important international gathering since, 
unlike some other statesmen, he did not " possess a 
reputation for conspicuous straight-forwardness and 
honour." The denunciation was warranted in the public 
interest; but many readers of that journal feared the 
retribution which, they imagined, must overtake it. 
They forgot that it had not t technically accused the 
public man in question of being dishonourable or 
crooked; it had said merely that he lacked "a reputa- 
tion " for straightforwardness and honour. It had 
reckoned shrewdly that any public man with a variegated 


record would think twice before taking libel proceedings 
to prove that he did, indeed, possess such a reputation. 

So if cunning lawyers can drive a coach and horses 
through the law, astute journalists can also drive a good- 
sized vehicle between its pitfalls. This state of things 
may not tend to raise the general standard of public 
comment upon public affairs, but it is an inevitable 
consequence of the law of libel in its present state. No 
fair-minded reader of the British Press will assert that 
it contains nothing which exposes anybody to tk hatred, 
ridicule or contempt," or which would cause anybody 
"' to be shunned or avoided " or that nobody is ever 
injured in his profession or trade by what appears in its 
columns. What the law of libel really does is to put 
a premium upon oblique writing, upon emphasis by 
under-statement, and upon the use of all the arts and 
dodges which fertile minds can devise to circumvent 
an omnipresent though invisible legal censorship of 
which the fairness cannot be rehed upon. 

This is definitely not to the public interest, nor is it 
to the public benefit that fear of the law of libel should 
be invoked, honestly or hypocritically, by newspapers 
as a reason for withholding from the public things 
which the public ought to know. If the Press and its, 
freedom are the central problem of modern democracy, 
if public opinion is the mainstay of democratic systems, 
and if the right to criticise public men and affairs is an 
essential attribute of freedom, the opeiation of a law 
which circumscribes freedom of comment and criticism 
may be inimical to public welfare, inasmuch as the law 
may deprive the public of the information necessary to 
the formation of sound opinion. Whatever the law 
may say to the contrary, every public man deliberately 
invites criticism of his public actions ; and if he be shielded 
by the law from effective criticism, in the Press or 
elsewhere, public control of his activities is hampered. 
The same applies to wealthy and powerful corporations 


such as rings, trusts, company promotions and other 
undertakings which would be less likely to forsake the 
straight and narrow path if they were sure that the 
Press could not be deterred from keeping a sharp eye 
upon them. 

For these and other reasons I agree with the former 
Lord Chief Justice whom experience of the law of libel 
had convinced that it, more than any other branch of 
English jurisprudence, needs thorough revision and 
amendment. I agree, too, with the conclusions reached 
by the authors of the P.E.P. " Report on the British 
Press." They are that while an " acceptable attempt 
at reform must recognise that the power of newspaper 
publicity is very great, and that the public must be 
safeguarded against its abuse," any such reform : 

should achieve two objects to free the Press from ex- 
ploitation by unscrupulous persons, which hampers the 
printing of news and comment required by the public 
interest, and to simplify and clarify the law by codifying it 
in one clear Act of Parliament. Whatever the merits of the 
objects of the present law, there can be no question that it 
is unsatisfactory because it is so uncertain in its application, 
and this uncertainty is natural when the number of statutes 
and leading cases involved is borne in mind. Whatever the 
law of libel should provide, few can favour a law which in 
its operation so closely resembles a " lucky dip." 

I have said that the workings of the law of libel arc 
the chief causes of denials of justice to newspapers if 
the " Official Secrets Acts " and the laws bearing upon 
public morals and sedition be left out of account. 
Recent prosecutions have shown that the " Official 
Secrets Act " cannot be left out of account, and that the 
present law, or its interpretation, sorely needs revision. 
The " Official Secrets Act " was passed in 1889 because 
a member of the Foreign Office staff had divulged the 
substance of a secret diplomatic document. As there 
was no legal remedy for such a breach of trust, a special 


law was made to provide it, and in 1911 and 1920 this 
law was amended. But at no moment was it intended 
for use against newspapers in the ordinary process of 
news gathering. The Parliamentary debates upon it 
show clearly that its main purpose was to check spying 
against " the safety and the interests of the State." 
Indeed a specific pledge to this effect was given to 
Parliament in 1920 by the Attorney-General. 

Yet, of late the " Official Secrets Act " has more 
than once been used by the police in cases where the 
" safety and the interests of the State " were certainly 
not affected. One such case was promptly dismissed 
by the Court. In another the police carried their point 
in defiance of the pledge given to Parliament. A 
journalist at Stockport had supplied his journal with 
news about a swindler who was working in the neigh- 
bourhood. The local police prosecuted him under 
the " Official Secrets Act " on the plea that his informa- 
tion had been drawn from a 4 * confidential " police 
circular which, as it presently appeared, was not marked 
" confidential " at all. But persons prosecuted under 
the " Official Secrets Act " are required to give the name 
of their informant. This the Stockport journalist refused 
to do, and the magistrates fined him. An appeal 
against their decision was dismissed by the Lord Chief 
Justice and his colleagues though the Lord Chief 
Justice was the same person who, as Attorney-General 
m 1920, had given the pledge to Parliament. 

Neither questions upon the Stockport case in the 
House of Commons nor expostulations by representa- 
tives of " newspaper interests " succeeded in persuading 
the Home Secretary to consider an amendment of the 
4< Official Secrets Act " or to promise that the Act will 
not again be used against the Press in the discharge 
of its normal functions. The Government appear to 
be in a reactionary, dictatorial temper a temper for 
which the Press, were it conscious of its duty and of its 


power, would have the remedy in its own hands, The 
Government need the support of the Press at every 
turn, If the Press should resolutely withhold that 
support until all ambiguity upon the interpretation of 

soon be brought to boot and 
incidentally, be taught a wholesome lesson, After all, 
the Press is-or should be-4e chief custodian of public 
liberties, to say nothing of its own, 



NEWSPAPERS exist to get and give news. How they get 
it is an intricate story. What they do with it when they 
have got it is another story. Most of them draw it from 
two mam sources. They take current or normal news 
from the News Agencies and supplement or explain it 
by news and comment which their own correspondents 
at home and abroad collect and supply. 

As the history of News Agencies shows, the geUing 
and distribution of normal news is now a highly 
organised undertaking But no independent newspaper 
can afford to rely solely upon what it gets from agencies. 
Their news goes to all who subscribe for it, and gives no 
advantage to one subscriber over another. So every 
important newspaper is obliged to employ news-getters 
and news-interpreters of its own in order that its readers 
may feel that something original or " exclusive " is being 
placed before them. 

The art or craft of independent news-getting is a 
curious business which many of the men and women who 
practise it most successfully are often unable 
They need an instinct, a tk nose," a 
they may be as unconscious of 
works as animals are supposed to 
situation and behave accordingly. 
on their side. In the course of 
have been lucky enough, from ti 
news " of international interest, 
looking for it or had made special Wsbs tq^gfct H. It 



came, as it were, by accident. And the wider a journa- 
list's interests are, the likelier will such " accidents " be. 

One or two instances may serve to illustrate this. 
While I was studying at Paris University in 1895-96, and 
was also working in the French National Library on the 
history of liberal thought in Germany and Central 
Europe, a fellow-student in the Library presented me to 
his cousin, Bernard Lazare, a French Jew of some 
literary standing. Lazare told me he was writing a criti- 
cal analysis of the condemnation of Captain Dreyfus, 
some 15 months earlier, on a charge of having betrayed 
French military secrets to Germany and Italy. Though 
Dreyfus had passionately affirmed his innocence he had 
been sentenced to penal servitude on Devil's Isle, the 
worst of the French penal settlements. Bernard Lazare 
studied the evidence and reached the conclusion that 
Dreyfus was innocent. Presently he sent me a copy of 
his analysis the very pamphlet which persuaded Emile 
Zola to write the famous article " J'Accuse " that really 
started the great French and international crisis known 
as the " Dreyfus Affair." 

This " Dreyfus Affair " contained in germ the anti- 
Jewish feeling that has since been exploited by Hitler in 
Germany. The French anti-Semites made capital out 
of it. They claimed that the honour of the French Army 
was offended by suggestions that a French court-martial 
had condemned an innocent man; and, as the officers 
who condemned him were mostly Clericals, the powerful 
influence of the Roman Catholic Church was used to 
prevent any revision of his trial. French Jews and anti- 
Clericals and many plain folk who wished only to know 
the truth clamoured for revision. So fierce did con- 
troversy become that the stability of the French Republic 
was believed to be threatened. To defend Dreyfus was 
to assail both the " honour of the army " and " the 
safety of the State." And, since Germany and Italy 
were alleged to have benefited by Captain Dreyfus's 


44 treason," the crisis took on a dangerous international 

Naturally, I followed its course with interest. But at 
the end of August, 1898, when the "Dreyfus Affair" 
had become a burning topic everywhere, the Tsar of 
Russia issued a circular invitation to all the Powers to 
attend a Peace Conference at the Hague. I was then 
the correspondent of The Times in Rome ; and on 
August 31, 1898, I called on the Italian Prime Minister, 
General Pelloux, to ask his impression of the Tsar's 
circular. To my surprise General Pelloux brushed it 
aside as a minor matter, and said : " There is something 
much more important m the papers this morning the 
arrest of the Frencli Colonel Henry in Pans. He is one 
of the chief traitors or, at any rate, it is he who is 
responsible for the condemnation of Dreyfus. Dreyfus 
is innocent." 

This was news for which the world was waiting. 
Remembering that General Pelloux had been Italian 
Secretary of State for War during the period covered by 
the condemnation of Dreyfus, and that he probably 
knew what he was talking about, I felt that he had, 
perhaps inadvertently, given me " big news." So it 
proved to be. Next day the suicide of Colonel Henry in 
prison was announced, and the demand for a revision 
of the Dreyfus trial became irresistible. 

In May, 1907, a diplomatist with whom I was playing 
golf gave me, in a fit of anger, the biggest sort of news. 
Irritated by something I had writtenand not having 
understood it he called me several kinds of a donkey 
and, by way of proving my stupidity, blurted out a highly 
explosive secret. A diplomatic plot was afoot to isolate 
Great Britain and Italy and to smash the Anglo-French 
Entente of 1904 by bringing France and Russia into line 
with Germany and Austria-Hungary. I used this in- 
formation indirectly, and very discreetly, so as not to 
compromise my informant. The result was a diplo- 


matic storm of the first magnitude. But the plot was 
foiled. The plotters then made secret enquiry into the 
possible source of my information. So hot were they on 
the scent that the indiscreet diplomatist felt bound to 
clear himself of suspicion by declaring, in an official 
report, that it was I who had informed him ! Some- 
where m the archives of a great Foreign Office this docu- 
ment is doubtless preserved for the enlightenment of 
future historians. 

Another instance occurred on March 19, 1909, when 
I was correspondent of The Times in Vienna. The 
European crisis brought on by the Austro-Hungarian 
annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in October, 1908, had 
reached its climax. War seemed imminent. Austro- 
Hunganan armies were mobilised against Serbia on the 
South-East, and other armies against Russia on the 
North-East. The Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the 
Austro-Hungarian Heir-Apparent and Inspector-General 
of the army, was due to leave Vienna that evening to 
take command of the operations against Serbia. The 
whole of Europe, indeed, the whole world, was anxiously 
awaiting the turn of events in the well-founded fear 
that hostilities between Austria-Hungary and Serbia 
might bring on a general European war. 

During my work in Italy I had followed the con- 
troversies which raged, in and about the Vatican, round 
the "" higher criticism " of the Gospels by certain Roman 
Catholic divines, and had taken shape in a movement of 
religious thought called " Modernism." In this way I 
had come into contact with some eminent Italian 
theologians and preachers. One of these men visited 
Vienna in the spring of 1908 to preach a series of Lenten 
sermons in an Italian Church. Next year he recom- 
mended to me another Italian priest who came to preach 
Lenten sermons in 1909. I offered this second priest a 
little hospitality and helped to make his stay pleasant. 
He had arranged to return to Italy on March 20, 1909 ; 


and, wishing to take leave of me, said he would call at 
5 p.m. on the 19th. I asked him not to be later, because 
my evening's work must begin at 6 p.m., and I should 
then be unable to see him. 

To my annoyance he came late. He was full of 
apologies and explained that he had been delayed at a 
party given by the Papal Nuncio in Vienna that afternoon 
in honour of the Pope's " name day." The Nuncio 
himself and his guests had been kept waiting by Father 
Fischer, a very influential Jesuit, who was the confessor 
of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand. My visitor 
rattled off an account of the party and said, incidentally, 
that when Father Fischer had at length arrived, and the 
Nuncio had cut short his excuses for lateness by saying 
that when war was so near he could well understand 
that Father Fischer should have been detained by His 
Imperial Highness, Father Fischer had answered: 
" No ! No ! The danger of war is over. The Archduke 
has just told me that everything will be settled peacefully 
and that he is not going to the front." 

My visitor was quite unconscious that he had given 
me news of outstanding importance. He went on with 
his somewhat garrulous gossip until I reminded him that 
my work was urgent, and sent him on his way. Then in 
an explicit private telegram and a less explicit public 
telegram I informed The Times that there was strong 
reason to believe the danger of war to be over. I 
reflected that if there were one man in the world to whom 
the very devout Archduke would have told the truth it 
was Father Fischer, his Jesuit confessor. 

Most journalists who have managed to get " big 
news " without sacrificing something of their inde- 
pendence could, I imagine, cite similar instances from 
their own experience. ^ News " has to be worked for 
and gleaned in a hundred ways ; but it often comes un- 
expectedly and, as it were, at a tangent, to those who 
touch life at many points. The news which enabled 


Lord Northcliffe to buy a controlling interest in The 
Times came to him because his love of music and 
youthful skill as a pianist had enabled him to appreciate 
the genius of Paderewski. Northcliffe had been invited 
to a party at the Stuart-Wortleys', where Paderewski was 
to play. But the night was so foggy that he telephoned 
regretfully to say he could not go. His host urged him 
to make a special effort to come, saying that Paderewski 
would be playing some of Northcliffe' s favourite music. 
So Northcliffe groped his way through the fog to the 
Stuart- Wortleys' house, where he met an acquaintance 
who had just helped to amalgamate the more or less 
bankrupt Great Central Railway with what was then the 
Midland Railway. Northcliffe congratulated him upon 
this achievement and was told in reply that something 
more sensational was being done the amalgamation 
of the bankrupt Standard with The Times under the 
management of Mr. C. Arthur Pearson. The use 
Northcliffe made of that information forms a special 
chapter in the history of the British Press. 

Items of i4 big news " or " scoops " that are got in this 
way distinguish true " news-getters " from the more 
pedestrian news-collectors who haunt the Press bureaux 
of Government Departments or Parliamentary lobbies, 
and " keep m with " official personages or diplomatists 
in the hope of learning something of interest from time 
to time. Now and again they may glean information 
independently. But as a rule a rule that tends to 
become more general and more absolute journalists 
who do not stand well with official quarters are apt to 
be left behind m the race and to see their more sub- 
servient colleagues go ahead of them. If they are foreign 
correspondents they may be penalised or even expelled 
from foreign countries for publishing news distasteful 
to the Governments of those countries ; and they cannot 
always be sure that their own papers will back them up 


if they get into trouble. Of late, it is true, there have 
been some splendid instances to the contrary; but there 
have also been instances that tend to make painstaking 
and conscientious news-gatherers feel that their journals 
value timid discretion more highly than fearless service 
of the public. 

One of the most admirable recent examples of this 
fearless service was given by Mr. Norman Ebbutt, the 
late correspondent of The Times in Berlin. Only those 
who have worked under similar conditions can under- 
stand how severe is the strain of living in a hostile 
atmosphere while observing events, and of Writing in 
such a form as to instruct careful readers without giving 
vigilant and ill-disposed authorities a chance to punish 
the writer. As an old hand at this kind of work, albeit 
under conditions far less trying than those which prevail 
in Nazi Germany, I put the work of Mr. Norman 
Ebbutt in Berlin among the highest and best that has 
ever been don^ for an English newspaper. Day after 
day he told the truth as nearly as it could be told, and 
kept that part of the British public which had eyes to read 
and minds to understand aware of what was going on 
in Germany. When, at length, the Nazi Government 
expelled him because they could not silence him they 
struck a shrewd blow at Great Britain. 

A news service of this kind is intrinsically more 
valuable and stands on a loftier level of journalistic 
achievement than even the getting of " big news " or 
" scoops." And it distinguishes the work of individual 
newspapers from that of news agencies and other pur- 
veyors of news in bulk. Yet news agencies discharge 
an indispensable function. The stream of news which 
they supply to the Press is like the food supply that keeps 
a nation alive; and, just as the public rarely gives a 
thought to the ships which bring grain and other food- 
stuffs to our shores, so newspaper readers do not often 
pause to think of the organisation and enterprise that 


lie behind telegrams or statements marked " Reuter " or 
" Press Association," to mention only these agencies. 
The bulk of the " intelligence " furnished by news 
agencies to their subscribers is of the normal kind that 
is to say, it announces facts and events without expound- 
ing their inner meaning but it makes up nine-tenths of 
the regular information which reaches the people of this 
country either through the Press or in wireless news 
bulletins. The story of the origin and development of 
news agencies has been told by the present head of 
" Reuter's," Sir Roderick Jones ; and in re-telling it 
briefly I shall draw mainly upon his account. 

The seed of the " news agency idea " came from 
the East where " intelligence " has always circulated 
and still circulates in the bazaars, sometimes with 
uncanny speed and accuracy. The idea may have been 
brought into Europe by the caravans of oriental traders 
who passed more or less regularly from the Near and 
Middle East through the chief cities and markets of 
Central Europe. The first European experts in news- 
gathering and distribution on a large scale were the 
Fuggers of Augsburg in the fourteenth century. By the 
beginning of the sixteenth century the members of the 
House of Fugger had become the merchant princes of 
Central Europe who acted as links between East and 
West. Much of their success was due to a system of 
news letters which gained for them, well ahead of their 
rivals, early information that enabled them to increase 
their wealth and power. Three centuries later the 
Rothschilds of Frankfurt, Vienna, Paris and London 
did much the same thing. The means by which the 
London Rothschilds got the first news of Wellington's 
victory at Waterloo, and the profit it brought them, are 
matters of history. As there were then no telegraphs 
they organised a postal service by carrier pigeons. 

During the first half of the nineteenth century The 


Times was foremost in the collection of early news, and 
to its spirit of enterprise in this respect it owed much of 
its power and fame. But before the middle of last 
century a young Jewish bank clerk named Julius Reuter, 
of Cassel in Germany, had an idea that made him the 
pioneer of news agencies. He saw that the bankers and 
merchants of Germany depended upon the list of Pans 
Bourse prices which came daily from Brussels by slow 
mail coach. In those days the French telegraph system 
ended at Brussels, and the German telegraph system only 
began at Aachen (or Aix-la-Chapelle). By starting a 
pigeon-post service between Brussels and Aix-la-Chapelle 
Julius Reuter was able to get the Paris Bourse prices into 
all the big German towns several hours ahead of every- 
body else. 

At first this was a purely business service of commer- 
cial and financial prices, not a news service. Success 
emboldened Reuter to extend it. But finding Germany, 
then split up into a multitude of larger and smaller 
States, too narrow a field for his enterprise, he came to 
London, took a small office in the City, and transferred 
his personal and political allegiance to England. Here 
also he was content, for a time, to collect and to distribute 
market prices. Presently he decided to go farther and 
to deal in news news for the newspapers, political events 
at home and abroad, and other intelligence bearing upon 
matters of public interest. 

The unwillingness of British newspapers to trust and 
to pay for his news service, even as a supplement to their 
own correspondence, handicapped Reuter for some time. 
So he linked up with two other Jews, one in Germany 
and the other in France, who had set up agencies m close 
contact with sources of official and business information. 
The Jew in Germany was Wolff, founder of the once- 
famous " Wolff Bureau " ; and the other in France was 
Havas, a French Jew of Hungarian origin, who estab- 
lished the equally famous " Agence Havas." On 


July 15, 1859, Reuter, Wolff and Havas entered into a 
covenant by which Wolff and Havas divided Europe 
among themselves for news purposes, while Reuter took 
for his sphere the British Empre and the remainder of 
the earth. A copy of this document signed " Julius 
Reuter, A. Havas and R. Wolff" still hangs in the 
offices of Reuter's Agency. 

Under this covenant Reuter had an exclusive right to 
the information obtained and distributed by Wolff in 
Germany and Havas in France, while they took Reuter's 
service of news from Great Britain and the rest of the 
world. Then Wolff and Havas made similar arrange- 
ments with other official and semi-official agencies in 
Austria, Spain, Italy and elsewhere. But as information 
from these sources was apt to be coloured by the views 
of the Governments of those countries, Reuter appointed 
special correspondents in the principal European 
capitals, as well as m great centres outside Europe, to 
give their own versions of events. It was, however, 
understood that these correspondents should not dupli- 
cate news which the semi-official agencies in their 
respective countries might send automatically, and should 
keep their independent accounts as close as possible to 
the bare facts without personal gloss or interpretations. 

From these beginnings Reuter's Agency grew into the 
world-wide organisation of which it disposes to-day. 
In 1865 it was turned into a limited liability company 
with Julius Reuter as Governing Director. Upon the 
death of Reuter's son, who had succeeded him as 
Governor-Director, Sir Roderick Jones turned the com- 
pany in 1915 into a private trust which bought up all its 
share capital, amounting to more than 500,000. In this 
way Reuter's was saved from falling into undesirable 
hands, and Sir Roderick Jones, who had made his mark 
as Reuter's Special Correspondent during the South 
African War of 1899-1902, was appointed chairman with 
full control. Some ten years later arrangements were 


made to transfer eventual responsibility for Renter's to 
another news agency, the Press Association, which is 
jointly owned by the provincial newspapers of the 
United Kingdom. 

The Press Association (or " P.A." as it is called for 
short) is supreme in the field of home news. It was 
founded in 1870 with the aim of putting the provincial 
Press on the same level as the great London journals in 
respect of quality and quantity of news. In that year 
the two private companies which had owned the tele- 
graphs of Great Britain were taken over by the Post 
Office. Until then these companies had collected and 
transmitted news on their own account. As this could 
not properly be done by a Department of State, the 
provincial newspapers formed their own organisation on 
a co-operative basis and named it the fc< Press 

The " P.A." is governed by a board of seven directors 
who are drawn from the owners and executive staffs of 
provincial papers. Each director becomes chairman in 
turn and retires after seven years on the Board. Then 
he serves five years on a Consultative Committee which 
confers with the Board twice a year. Membership of 
the Press Association is confined to provincial news- 
papers, each of which must hold prescribed numbers 
of fully paid-up shares. London newspapers can and 
do subscribe to its news services, but only their pro- 
vincial editors (at Manchester or Glasgow) are entitled 
to be members of the " P.A." and to hold qualifying 

Unlike Reuter's, which specialises in foreign news, the 
Press Association supplies all kinds of home news, from 
reports of Parliamentary debates to accounts of horse 
racing. Its offices are linked by " direct printer " with 
the offices of all London papers and with the London 
offices of the chief provincial papers. Another telegraph 
system also pours a continuci s stream of news into the 


head offices of provincial journals at the rate of 140 words 
a minute. So prompt is this service that racing results, 
for instance, are said to be known in every British 
newspaper office before jockeys have had time to 

The electric teleprinter became the indispensable 
instrument of this service. The first teleprinter was 
produced and worked as long ago as 1873 by another 
news agency, the Exchange Telegraph Company, which 
had been established a year earlier. It could transmit 
telegraphically about 25 words a minute. The high- 
speed teleprinter of to-day is a far swifter and more 
efficient device ; but before long it is likely to be replaced 
by " direct printers " based upon voice frequency or 
wave-band working, if not indeed by facsimile telegraphy 
which will reproduce whole columns in a few minutes 
and will not only deliver " copy " by telegraph but set 
it up in type. This facsimile transmission is not a pro- 
cess of sending messages letter by letter, as in the cases 
of teleprinters or direct printers. It resembles rather 
the " scanning " of a piece of copy in such a way that 
the whole of the sheet put into the sending machine 
comes out in facsimile at the other end. So much 
inventive skill is now being applied to this branch of 
news transmission that in the near future whole messages, 
irrespective of length and distance, may be delivered to 
newspaper offices in a flash, instead of being spelt out, 
no matter how swiftly, letter by letter. 

These are some of the technical aspects of news trans- 
mission by a world-wide network of agencies. Reuter's, 
for instance, have special covenants with all the leading 
news agencies in Europe, as well as with the Associated 
Press and the United Press Agencies in the United 
States, with two Japanese agencies and with agencies in 
Canada, Australia and New Zealand. While most of 


these agencies cater for newspapers in their own coun- 
tries, all major news, however distant Us source, is tele- 
graphed or telephoned to London, which remains the 
chief clearing-house of the world for news. 

Notwithstanding the complexity, and the perfection, 
of the arrangements made by news agencies, the 
distinction between " agency news " and news supplied 
by the correspondents of individual newspapers is not 
likely to undergo essential change. Since agencies live 
by supplying a large number of newspapers, their ten- 
dency is to keep news mattei-of-fact and colourless. 
The special correspondents whom they may employ to 
" cover " a particular event or to act as war corre- 
spondents are m a class by themselves and are less 
affected by this general rule. Broadly speaking the 
main business of the news agencies is to provide a con- 
nected record of events, while the individual newspaper 
correspondent is free to put more personality into his 
despatches. Of late, it is true, news agencies have 
tended to infuse into their despatches more colour than 
was formerly thought likely to be acceptable to their 
clients; and in so far as this tendency makes for bright- 
ness and interest in the recording and presentation of 
news the public will have no reason to complain, pro- 
vided always that accuracy be not sacrificed. A news 
agency can have no more valuable asset than a reputa- 
tion for trustworthiness Hard though it may be for 
its representatives to write anonymous and unemotional 
chronicles, it is safer and sounder for them not to com- 
pete with the correspondents of individual newspapers 
in point of vivacious or brilliant writing. They are 
news-collectors and news-transmitters rather than judges 
or interpreters. What may perhaps be thought the 
loftier sphere of personal judgment and critical interpre- 
tation is rightly denied to them in the full measure in 
which it is conceded to the correspondents of individual 


These circumstances raise an issue which is ever present 
to the minds of newspaper owners, editors and corre- 
spondents alike. The outlay incurred by news agencies 
in the collection, transmission and distribution of news 
runs into many millions of pounds a year. No news- 
paper can afford to bear this outlay by itself; and, if it 
could, the result would merely be to duplicate a large 
part of the intelligence which agencies are able to supply. 
Besides, subscriptions to news agencies are costly and 
newspapers, like other business undertakings, need to 
justify their subscriptions. But, after all, agency news 
comes from sources which individuals have to tap, and 
no individual is infallible. The more official those 
sources, the less likely are they to be entirely truthful. 
So newspapers which rely mainly upon agency reports 
may unwittingly mislead their readers, either positively 
by giving them information that bears an official taint or 
negatively by not supplying information which Govern- 
ments wish to withhold. For these reasons it is indis- 
pensable that independent journals which desire to inform 
their readers accurately and fully should be served by 
their own correspondents wherever this is practicable 
within the limits of cost. In this sense there is always 
bound to be a certain rivalry between individual news- 
paper correspondents and agency representatives, a 
rivalry that becomes the keener, and the harder for indi- 
vidual newspapers to sustain m proportion as the net- 
work of agencies covers the ground more completely. 
The contest lies between what I may call the standardisa- 
tion and the individualisation of news. 

Within the past twenty years a new element has crept 
into this older rivalry, particularly as regards the British 
Press. The wireless broadcasting of news bulletins four 
or five times in the course of the evening has tended to 
give " agency news " a wider and prompter circulation 
than it had before. Listeners to the familiar phrase : 


" Copyright by Renter's, the Press Association, Exchange 
Telegraph and Central News " may not realise that what 
they are hearing is " agency news " and that they may 
need to study the invididual news of various journals 
on the morrow in order to gain a more comprehensive 
impression. It says much for the general accuracy of 
the agency news summaries by the British Broadcasting 
Corporation and, perhaps, for the care with which 
agency reports are sifted and co-ordinated by the 
editorial staff of the B.B.C. that discrepancies should 
be rare between the initial impression conveyed by the 
news bulletins and the fuller information provided by 
the Press next day. I have watched for some years this 
aspect of the wide publicity thus given to agency news, 
and think it fair both to the news agencies and to the 
B.B.C. to state my personal opinion that, on the whole, 
the impressions which the public receives from the 
wireless bulletins are sounder and more impartial than 
they would be if the B.B.C. were to rely upon the 
individual news of any paper or upon a news service of 
its own. But the relationship between Broadcasting and 
the Press raises issues that transcend this particular 
aspect of it ; and I shall therefore essay to deal with it in 
a separate chapter. 



FEW journalists and fewer newspaper owners look upon 
broadcasting without bias. My own bias is that of a 
man who, at the age of twenty, chose journalism as his 
life-work and has never regretted his choice. With the 
drawbacks and setbacks of work on and for the Press 
I am painfully familiar including the drawback of 
finding convictions, gradually formed by experience 
and reflection, frowned upon and, as far as possible, 
excluded from daily journalism. But I have known 
the delight of fighting hard for good causes and of 
helping to win some of them. I have had, too, the 
satisfaction of going back into the ranks from a com- 
manding position and of discovering how much honesty, 
courage and idealism still inspire my fellow-ciaftsmen. 
T have seen the leading journals of this country magnifi- 
cently serve its highest interests; and I have also seen 
not a few of them, daily and weekly, sin against the light 
and succumb to diplomatic blandishments and to 
short-sighted financial or com nercial influences. More 
than once in the course of the past thirty years I have 
watched foreign propaganda, subtly hostile to this 
country and to all that the British Commonwealth 
stands for, penetrate and pervade the British Press to 
an extent that would be incredible were it not proved ; 
and I have been tempted to wonder whether British 
journalism is much better than a faithless steward of 
our national heritage. Then I have seen it, or the 
public upon which it depends, react with so much 



sound sense that my faith in the Press and in the people 
has revived. So I am still a journalist, first and fore- 
most, caring only that the Press should be free and 
that it should do its duty. 

At the same time I have also been and am a broad- 
caster. I know the power of words spoken through 
the microphone to hundreds of thousands or, maybe, 
millions of listeners in this country and throughout the 
world. I have felt the magnetic response which a 
sensitive broadcaster may receive instantly from his 
listeners; and, like other broadcasters, I have had my 
share of what is known, in American jargon, as " fan 
mail/' T, too, have come under the crippling censorship 
which the B.B.C can exercise on occasion, and my 
name has been on its black list for having protested, 
publicly and privately, against what I thought its grossly 
mistaken treatment of some important events. But 
experience of the difficult conditions under which B.B C. 
officials work, and of the mingled delicacy and power 
of the instrument they use, has taught me to sympathise 
with them and not to add to their perplexities by 
crotchety insistence on this or that point which, in 
my own view, ought to be put forward. On the whole 
they know their job far better than any amateur outsider 
can know it. 

If, therefore, I may be unable to take an impartial 
view of the relationship between broadcasting and the 
Press I can, at least, see both sides of it And I say 
without hesitation that the advent of wireless broad- 
casting, the broadcasting of news and views, is one of 
the most wholesome influences that could possibly have 
come into our public life, and that, m the long run, it 
may help to save the Press itself from some of the evils 
and dangers which now beset honest journalism. 

One of the greatest advantages which the British 
Broadcasting Corporation enjoyed at the outset lay 
in its freedom from any temptation to produce high 


dividends for share-holding proprietors. It was a public 
corporation, controlled, in the last resort, by Parliament 
yet with wide discretion in the use its governors might 
think right to make of the means of public information 
at their disposal. The remuneration of the capital 
originally invested in the B.B.C. was limited to 7 per 
cent. There was no danger that it might be " watered " 
by the issue of bonus shares, or that the shares them- 
selves might be turned into speculative investments by 
the payment upon them of fantastically high dividends. 
This was a guarantee of financial sanity and of public 
safety such as few newspapers could offer. Nor do 
I think that this guarantee has been essentially weakened 
in other respects by the changes made in the constitution 
of the B.B.C, under its amended Royal Charter and 
Licence and Agreement with the Postmaster-General of 
December, 1936. 

There is a further guarantee in the ultimate control 
of the B.B.C. by Parliament, both as regards the charter 
of the B.B.C. itself and the asking of questions in both 
Houses upon any aspect of its activities. The Postmaster- 
General, on behalf of the Government, controls those 
activities, and is responsible to Parliament in regard 
to them. Though this control may tend to " cramp 
the style " of the broadcasting staff, and to induce a 
state of nervous apprehension among their chiefs, it 
is in harmony with the democratic right of public 
criticism of public affairs. Unrestricted liberty to 
broadcast anything which either the governors of the 
Broadcasting Corporation or the Government of the 
day might wish to foist upon the public, and immunity 
from effective criticism of such broadcasting, would 
not be compatible with public freedom and would begin 
to resemble the conditions which prevail in " totalitarian" 

Alongside of these wholesome limitations upon 
broadcasting lies an educative opportunity such as no 


newspaper, or even the Press as a whole, can possess. 
Jtis that of bringing, instantaneously and simultaneously, 
into millions of homes statements of fact, interpretative 
comment, and arguments for and against given inter- 
pretations, in such a way as to appeal to the minds 
rather than to the emotions of listeners. While it is 
true that the British peoples in general and the English 
people in particular dislike and revolt against attempts 
to teach them anything, and prefer to " feel " about 
things rather than to reason them out, it is also true 
that our people are not indisposed to learn by stealth 
while they are being interested or amused. The broad- 
casting equivalent of the newspaper " pressure on space " 
is " pressure on time." Few broadcasters can say 
intelligibly more than 150 words a minute; and in 
order to put announcements of news, statements of 
fact, or arguments in a " talk " into the time-space of 
fifteen or twenty minutes, the matter must be at once 
condensed and well-expressed. This is the essence of 
good broadcasting as it is of good journalism, though 
the technique of interesting listeners in the spoken word 
differs considerably from that of interesting readers in 
the written or printed word. 

Broadcasting has, moreover, a range of appeal far 
wider than that of the Press. Newspaper readers must 
be able to read, whereas a broadcaster can speak to 
the illiterate. An illustration of this power, and of 
some of its effects, was given in an article which The 
Times published on April 19, 1938, from Us corres- 
pondent at Bahrein in the Persian Gulf. He wrote : 

It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of 
broadcasting; in countries where most of the population is 
illiterate the loud-speaker is far more powerful than the 
Press. Since the introduction of wireless the Arabs have 
taken a keen interest in foreign politics and in news abou 
countries which a few years ago many of them had never 
heard of. Most well-to-do Arabs own a wireless set and 


dividends for share-holding proprietors. It was a public 
corporation, controlled, in the last resort, by Parliament 
yet with wide discretion in the use its governors might 
think right to make of the means of public information 
at their disposal. The remuneration of the capital 
originally invested m the B.B.C. was limited to 7 per 
cent. There was no danger that it might be " watered " 
by the issue of bonus shares, or that the shares them- 
selves might be turned into speculative investments by 
the payment upon them of fantastically high dividends. 
This was a guarantee of financial sanity and of public 
safety such as few newspapers could offer. Nor do 
I think that this guarantee has been essentially weakened 
in other respects by the changes made in the constitution 
of the B.B.C, under its amended Royal Charter and 
Licence and Agreement with the Postmaster-General of 
December, 1936. 

There is a further guarantee in the ultimate control 
of the B.B.C. by Parliament, both as regards the charter 
of the B.B.C. itself and the asking of questions in both 
Houses upon any aspect of its activities. The Postmaster- 
General, on behalf of the Government, controls those 
activities, and is responsible to Parliament in regard 
to them. Though this control may tend to " cramp 
the style " of the broadcasting staff, and to induce a 
state of nervous apprehension among their chiefs, it 
is in harmony with the democratic right of public 
criticism of public affairs. Unrestricted liberty to 
broadcast anything which either the governors of the 
Broadcasting Corporation or the Government of the 
day might wish to foist upon the public, and immunity 
from effective criticism of such broadcasting, would 
not be compatible with public freedom and would begin 
to resemble the conditions which prevail in " totalitarian" 

Alongside of these wholesome limitations upon 
broadcasting lies an educative opportunity such as no 


newspaper, or even the Press as a whole, can possess. 
It is that of bringing, instantaneously and simultaneously, 
into millions of homes statements of fact, interpretative 
comment, and arguments for and against given inter- 
pretations, in such a way as to appeal to the minds 
rather than to the emotions of listeners. While it is 
true that the British peoples in general and the English 
people in particular dislike and revolt against attempts 
to teach them anything, and prefer to " feel " about 
things rather than to reason them out, it is also true 
that our people are not indisposed to learn by stealth 
while they are being interested or amused. The broad- 
casting equivalent of the newspaper " pressure on space " 
is '* pressure on time." Few broadcasters can say 
intelligibly more than 150 words a minute; and in 
order to put announcements of news, statements of 
fact, or arguments in a " talk " into the time-space of 
fifteen or twenty minutes, the matter must be at once 
condensed and well-expressed. This is the essence of 
good broadcasting as it is of good journalism, though 
the technique of interesting listeners in the spoken word 
differs considerably from that of interesting readers in 
the written or printed word. 

Broadcasting has, moreover, a range of appeal far 
wider than that of the Press. Newspaper readers must 
be able to read, whereas a broadcaster can speak to 
the illiterate. An illustration of this power, and of 
some of its effects, was given in an article which The 
Times published on April 19, 1938, from its corres- 
pondent at Bahrein in the Persian Gulf. He wrote : 

It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of 
broadcasting; in countries where most of the population is 
illiterate the loud-speaker is far more powerful than the 
Press. Since the introduction of wireless the Arabs have 
taken a keen interest in foreign politics and in news about 
countries which a few years ago many of them had never 
heard of. Most well-to-do Arabs own a wireless set and 


loud-speakers are used in coffee shops. In Bahrein the 
recently inaugurated Arabic broadcasting from London has 
been received with interest and enthusiasm, and the news, 
because it comes from London, is regarded as being accurate. 
It is not only news and music which are popular. Recently 
an Englishwoman calling on an Arab woman discovered 
her hostess surrounded by servants, sugar and oranges, and 
was told by her hostess that she was making marmalade 
according to a recipe she had heard on the radio. 

Even in literate and, hypothetically, more civilised 
communities the mental response to impressions received 
through the ear is not exactly the same as the response 
to impressions received through the eye Partly because 
the habit of reading has rendered modern minds more 
responsive to things read than to thing heard, and 
partly because readers can take their own time to grasp 
a printed passage whereas listeners have to keep pace 
with the words and the thoughts of broadcasters, the 
appeal of the spoken word differs from that of the 
printed word. A newspaper written entirely m broad- 
casting style might soon strike its readers as unreadable ; 
and a broadcast " talk " delivered in the style of a 
newspaper article would certainly fail to secure the 
degree of attention which well-conceived and well- 
delivered broadcast talks can and do command. 

In this respect, at least, broadcasting and the Press 
should, as they often do, supp 1 ement each other. If 
my own experience be any guide and 1 think it must 
be similar to that of many other broadcasters listeners 
who write to express pleasure or approval frequently 
ask whether and where they can get a " talk " m print. 
They may wish to read it at leisure so as to " take it 
in " more fully; or they may desire to reflect upon and 
to analyse statements that seemed convincing when 
spoken vividly or dramatically. Many people feel that 
the eye, which can pause while the mind ponders, is 
likely to be a safer guide than the ear, which has hardly 


conveyed one impression before it conveys others in 
rapid succession. 

This was particularly noticeable in an emergency 
which I have always looked upon as a test case. During 
the General Strike of May, 1926, when newspapers 
were prevented for some days from appearing in their 
usual form, and arrangements were very haphazard 
for the distribution of such broadsheets as could be 
printed, the public got its news chiefly through wireless 
broadcasting. Those who had no wireless receiving 
sets learned from listeners by word of mouth what was 
going on. It might therefore have been supposed that 
when scrappy news-sheets could be tardily distributed 
a public already informed by wireless would take little 
interest in them. On the contrary; public eagerness to 
read printed statements of news already old seemed 
to be keener than ever. Things heard were not fully 
believed until they could be read m cold print. 

Here, it would seem, the line of demarcation between 
the function of broadcasting and the function of the 
Press is clearly marked to the potential advantage of 
both. Broadcasting may get its blow m first, and if 
its blow be shrewd and true it will command increasing 
confidence. But newspapers can strengthen and deepen 
the impression made by the spoken word if the news 
they give be equally true and straight, and if their 
comments upon it are such as to commend themselves 
to listeners who may have reflected overnight upon what 
they have heard before reading interpretations of it 
next morning. If this circumstance should act as a 
check upon the vagaries of the Press the public at large 
will not be the loser, and the Press itself should gam 
in influence and authority. But if " popular journals " 
should take it for granted that the public will not be 
interested in reading something that has already been 
broadcast, that what the public likes best in newspapers 
are " stories of human interest "sensational accounts 


of crimes, the antics of film stars and of prize fighters, 
pictures that go as far as they dare in the presentation 
of nude figures, prying reports upon matters of private 
concern, and other forms of appeal to the lowest levels 
of human curiosity the Press will only have itself to 
thank should it find that broadcasting has become its 
saner and triumphant rival. 

In The Newspaper World, an organ devoted to the 
interests of the Press, a writer recently asked: "Can 
the B.B.C. be a menace to the Press ? " He declared 
that the newspapers of this country need to come to 
a decision on this question without much loss of time, 
because delay and compromise may be construed by 
the B.B.C. as weakness. Here the assumption is clearly 
that broadcasting is a rival and a potential enemy of 
the Press. Indeed, the writer goes on to say that while 
the Press of this country has not in any respect whatever 
(as, he alleges, it could have done) invaded the preserves 
of broadcasting, the B.B.C. has repeatedly and con- 
sciously attempted a peaceful penetration of newspaper 
territory. This, he asserts, has happened in the two 
departments which are essentially and fundamentally 
Press operations, though they are not necessary opera- 
tions of the broadcasting instrument news dissemination 
and advertising. 

While I agree that advertising is not a " necessary 
operation " of broadcasting, I am persuaded that news 
dissemination is; and for reasons already given I think 
that the function of news dissemination by the B.B.C. 
does not necessarily conflict with the function of the 
Press. As for advertising, it has been the glory of 
British broadcasting to have kept the huckstering 
advertiser, with his " sponsored programmes," out of 
British broadcasting. Yet, according to the writer in 
The Newspaper World, the evil of advertising is 


tending to creep into broadcasting through devious 

The case he strove to make out is both interesting 
and double-edged. Rightly or wrongly, the B.B.C. has 
included excerpts from plays in its entertainment pro- 
grammes; and the charge against it is that the broad- 
casting of these excerpts has caused the public to fill 
the theatres where the plays in question were being 
given, and to turn what looked like being theatrical 
failures into successes. Actors who had been on half- 
salary, and were doubting how long they would be 
employed at all, have been able to play for full salaries 
to crowded houses for months on end after some scenes 
from their play had been broadcast. 

If this be true, 1 should be inclined to say : " So 
much the better ! " In any case the stricture hits the 
Press harder than it hits wireless " advertising." Is it 
not damaging comment upon the advertising capacity 
of the Press and upon the poverty of dramatic criticism ? 
If members of the public rush to see a play, and pay 
for the opportunity of seeing it when they have been 
given a chance actually to hear some scenes from il, 
it would seem that Press reports and criticisms of the 
play have failed to tell the public what the public would 
have liked to know. Incidentally, broadcasting might 
thus render a service to the dramatic profession by 
enabling some of its members to earn a living, and a 
service to dramatic art itself, by leading the public to 
support "the real thing" rather than the "canned 
drama " of the films. If no better case than this can 
be made out against wireless " advertising" it will not 
carry conviction. 

On another count the case against the B.B.C. may 
be stronger. It is alleged that some of the ' variety 
items of its entertainments programme are provided tree, 
or practically free, by hotels and other establishments 
which are interested in advertising their entertainments 


by getting them mentioned on the wireless and that 
these items are, to this extent, " sponsored " by adver- 
tisers. This system, critics of the B.B.C. suggest, is 
unfair to the Press because it gives free advertisement 
to a commodity which ought to pay for Press publicity ; 
and it is claimed that the whole of the Press ought to 
bring concerted pressure on the Government to make 
it give up some part of the 10 per cent, plus 1,050,000 
which the Postmaster-General is entitled to deduct from 
fees received for wireless licences so that the B.B.C. 
may be able to choose freely and to pay adequately for 
all the items in its entertainment programme instead 
of getting part of them for next to nothing on a 
clandestine advertisement basis. 

It was generally understood, when the British Broad- 
casting Corporation was given its charter, that its 
proportion of revenue from wireless licences would be 
entirely spent after the 70,000 originally needed 
for interest on capital had been deducted on the 
development of its service to the public and on such 
experimental research or improvement of apparatus 
as might be necessary to keep British broadcasting 
abreast or ahead of the radio services of other countries. 
The principle of keeping British Broadcasting free from 
the influence of advertisers is so sound, and is so firmly 
supported by the listening public, that the moral 
advantage it gives to the B.B.C. over a Press which is 
increasingly dependent upon advertisers ought not to 
be lost or lessened in any way. No care can be too 
great to prevent the infiltration of " sponsored " pro- 
grammes, foreign or British, into our wireless service. 
Whether such infiltration has occurred or is likely to 
occur the general public cannot easily judge. The more 
important is it that the governing authorities of the 
B.B.C. should be ceaselessly On their guard. 


But criticism of the " invasion " of the sphere of 
the Press by broadcasting does not stop at this point. 
Exception is also taken to the enrolment by the B.B.C 
of its own staff of special correspondents or " observers " 
to report and comment upon, by telephone or wireless, 
the proceedings of such bodies as the League of Nations 
Council and Assembly or other interesting events in 
Great Britain and abroad. It is claimed that these 
44 observers " are special correspondents m the 
journalistic sense, and that their reports, which are 
usually broadcast several hours ahead of the publica- 
tion of analogous reports by newspapers, constitute 
unfair competition with newspaper enterprise. And 
the fear is expressed that if the B.B.C. continues to 
exploit the advantage it derives from the instantaneous 
dissemination of " eye-witness accounts " and special 
reports instead of co-operating with the Press on a 
friendly "live and let live" basis, the relationship 
between broadcasting and the Press will end by being 
the relationship between the whale and Jonah. 

As a final grievance the further complaint is put 
forward that whereas a few years ago the B B.C. only 
broadcast two news bulletins in the course of the evening 
it now broadcasts five, and that it is preparing to 
denounce its earlier agreement with the Newspaper 
Proprietors 5 Association so as to free itself from the 
restrictions which it accepted under that agreement. 
In future, it is stated, the B B.C. intends to be at liberty 
to take its news from such sources as it may deem 
trustworthy and no longer to allow its choice to be 
confined to announcements provided by the four Press 
agencies Reuters, the Press Association, the Exchange 
Telegraph, and the Central News. Some colour has 
been lent to these allegations by the recommendation of 
the Ullswater Committee in 1937 that the B.B.C. should 
not be tied down to news agencies or to any other 
source of information but should be free to vary its 


announcements by drawing upon other sources as 
future circumstances may require. 

The issue between broadcasting and the Press seems 
thus to be urgent and far-reaching. To judge it rightly, 
or even to lay down the principles upon which it should 
be judged, is by no means easy. Narrowly regarded, 
it is a contest between a State-sanctioned monopoly, 
in possession of the public ear, and a number of private 
undertakings which their owners describe as an 
" industry " in possession of the public eye. But the 
true question lies much deeper than this. It is the 
question of safeguarding public freedom to know, to 
discuss and to criticise everything that bears upon 
the proper conduct of public affairs. 

Obviously public welfare and the freedom of public 
opinion might be endangered if the chief channels of 
information, and of comment upon information, should 
come under the exclusive control of a broadcasting 
monopoly which, with the assent of Parliament, drew 
its revenue from licence fees collected for it by the 
Post Office, a Government Department. This would be 
a (possibly sinister) approach to a " totalitarian " 
manipulation of the public mind; and no degree of 
efficiency on the part of the British Broadcasting 
Corporation could compensate a free people for this 
loss of essential attributes of its freedom. It is one 
thing to argue that, to-day, thj service of news and 
comment provided by the B.B.C. is, on the whole, 
more prompt, more rapid and more enlightening than 
any similar service which an individual newspaper or 
group of newspapers now offers. It would be quite 
another thing to suggest that the B.B.C. could therefore 
be trusted to act as a substitute for the Press. The 
very fact that the Press competes for public attention 
through the eye with the appeal of the B.B.C. to the 
public ear may be a pledge of impartiality on the part 

of the B.B.C. and a corrective to any dictatorial arrogance 
which it might otherwise be tempted to display. No 
free country can desire or, m the long run, could tolerate 
a monopolistic manipulation of public opinion by the 
broadcasting of news and views. 

So far so good. But is the British Press in its present 
condition really entitled to throw stones at the B.B.C. 
on the score of its alleged monopolistic invasion of 
the journalistic domain ? Does not the Press, or the 
greater part of it, live in a glasshouse ? Are not the 
proprietors of the majority of British newspapers them- 
selves in the position of monopolists ? Have they not 
grouped together so many individual publications which 
once lived free lives of their own, into " trusts," 
" alliances," and other combines that the public which 
reads these co-ordinated journals has to swallow what- 
ever their owners may think right to lay before them ? 
And have not the true functions of a free Press been 
bedevilled by unhealthy eagerness for big circulations 
as leverage for the extortion of high advertisement rates 
which bring huge profits to newspaper owners ? Worst 
of all, have not some of these profit-making newspaper 
proprietors used their power to withhold from the public 
facts which the public ought to know, because those 
facts happen to conflict with the personal whims, 
prejudices or fears of newspaper proprietors, or to offend 
financial or other " interests " which secretly favour 
systems inimical to public freedom ? 
* As matters stand to-day one may fairly ask whether 
any w< national " British newspaper or group of news- 
papers has had the vision or the public spirit to offer 
the people of this country a degree of enlightenment 
comparable with that which the B.B.C. has provided 
in its weekly " talks " on world affairs or in its series 
of discussions upon " The Way to Peace " or in its 
analyses of the relative merits of efficiency and liberty. 
I, at any rate, know of none. One or two provincial 


journals, like the Manchester Guardian, have done their 
best, as have some weekly reviews like the New Statesman 
and the Spectator. So out of touch with things that 
really interest the people have been the great majority, 
alike of our " leading journals " and of their " popular " 
counterparts, that they would have rejected forthwith 
as " dud copy " the balanced explanations and the 
dialogues which hundreds of thousands, perhaps 
millions, of listeners have eagerly followed. In this 
respect, at all events, the editorial staff of the B.B.C. 
have to quote once more Mr. Bernard Shaw's phrase : 
" Come along with the real thing," and have proved 
the truth of his dictum that when a paper or a journal 
" comes along with the real thing " the public cannot 
have enough of it. 

Is it possible may a journalist and a broadcaster 
suggest such a thing without blasphemy that the 
makers of the British Press are not up-to-date ? Do 
they not know that the educative power of broadcasting 
is transforming the taste of the newspaper-reading public 
under their very eyes, and that their noses (hypothetically 
keen to sniff any change of wind) have lost the scent 
that leads to public favour ? Is it not a portent that 
our mammoth " newspaper industry " should have lost 
the confidence of readers in such a degree that hecto- 
graphed news-letters, purporting to give real news and 
to explain it frankly, find ready circulations without 
any of the costly plant that is neeued to turn out journals 
crammed with and disfigured by " stories of human 
interest " and blatant advertisements ? 

Something is wrong somewhere. Exactly what is 
wrong, and where, a very expert finger might be needed 
to determine. The " newspaper industry," it seems, is 
spending more than a million pounds a year on can- 
vassing for subscribers so that the real or nominal 
increase of circulation secured by the pestering of 
potential readers may serve to extract additional revenue 


advertising agencies and their patrons. Sir Walter 
Layton, Chairman of the News-Chronicle and Star 
companies, declared not long ago that "it would be to 
the advantage of the British Press if the responsible 
heads of the great national dailies could agree that the 
time has come when their papers should sell more on their 
merits and less on the intensity of their door-fc-door 
canvassing." On their merits? The point about 
canvassing, and the increases in circulation which 
canvassing sometimes achieves, is that these papers 
sell less on their merits than on their dements, and 
that canvassers induce the public to buy them for reasons 
that have little or nothing to do with journalism proper 
or with the true functions of the Press. And then the 
Press, which these practices disgrace and degrade, cries 
out because broadcasting gives the public, without 
canvassing, a "'press service" after the public's own 
heart ! 

Is it not significant that there has been a tendency 
of late for talented journalists to migrate from news- 
paper staffs to the staff of the B.B.C. ? This is not 
because the remuneration offered by the B.B.C. is on 
a higher scale than that offered by newspapers or that 
one of th drawbacks of the journalistic craft, insecurity 
of tenure, disappears when they join the broadcasting 
staff. Nor is it that conditions of work are lighter or, 
on the whole, more agreeable. The attraction may lie 
in the feeling that those who broadcast news and views 
are in closer and more immediate contact with the 
public than men in newspaper offices, that there is 
fuller scope for originality and greater freedom from 
the harassing sense that intellectual or literary effort 
must be subordinated to the business of adding to the 
revenues that go to produce fat dividends. It may be 
that the Press will find itself unable to hold its own 
against broadcasting unless its owners set limits to 
their profit-making and recognise that newspapers 


perform a public service which private financial interests 
cannot be allowed to overshadow. A hint of things 
to come may also have been thrown out by Sir Walter 
Layton at a banquet given to celebrate the fiftieth 
anniversary of the Star. He said that if the Trust which 
owns the controlling shares of that journal makes 
profits they cannot be used for the personal benefit of 
any of its members, but must be employed for the 
development or improvement of its newspapers, for 
the acquisition of new journals or, in the last resort, 
for useful social schemes such as better housing. This 
group of newspapers, he added, is a commercial concern 
in the strictest sense, but the constitution under which 
it works makes it a form of Public Utility and thus gives 
it a real measure of independence. 

It is, I fancy, in this direction that the Press will need 
to evolve if broadcasting which is eminently a public 
utility service is not to outdo newspapers in serving 
the public. Apart from its technical advantages the 
strength of the public appeal of broadcasting lies in 
its independence of money-making considerations; and 
it is the insidious influence of money-making upon 
newspaper enterprise that has gradually sapped public 
confidence in the independence and straightforwardness 
of the Press. As the standard of public education is 
raised by better schools and more highly-trained teachers, 
the journals of the future may find that if they would 
retain the confidence of the public they must seek to 
approach the high level of journalistic truthfulness 
which marks a great newspaper like the Christian Science 
Monitor of Boston. The influence of this journal and 
the respect which it enjoys are by no means confined 
to those who profess or who even sympathise with its 
special religious outlook. It seeks 10 publish the truth 
as nearly as the truth can be ascertained at a given 
moment; and if its judgments err, they usually err on 
the side of charity. Whether or not it is a " commercial 

proposition," in the sense of being a profit-making 
concern, only those who know the circumstances of its 
production can say. But it represents an ideal of 
responsible journalism which, so long as that ideal is 
pursued by newspapers, will help to save the Press 
from becoming a byword and the " newspaper industry " 
from becoming a k ' business venture," literally " of the 
baser sort," by trading in moral values in ways divorced 
from morality, 

In a word, the contest between broadcasting and the 
Press needs to be judged from the standpoint of what is 
most conducive to public welfare find to the safe- 
guarding of that freedom of public opinion which is 
a condition of true civilisation. Should broadcasting 
ever become an agency for the dissemination of one 
set of ideas to the exclusion of others, should any official 
or semi-official taint permanently disfigure it, or should 
it lend itself to other propaganda than that of making 
known, from day to day, facts and views which the 
nation needs to know, it would in its turn, require to 
be opposed, criticised and even denounced; and in 
opposing, criticising or denouncing it, independent 
newspapers would render a public service. But hitherto 
the work of the B.B.C. has drawn inspiration from the 
principles on which the freedom of the Press itself 
was based. And it has served the public by fidelity to 
those principles at a moment when the freedom of the 
British Press was tending to become freedom for faith- 
less stewards of the public conscience to betray their 



NEWSPAPER readers rarely give a thought to the work 
and the intricacy of organisation that have gone to the 
making of " their " paper when they take it up at the 
breakfast table or buy it at a bookstall on their way to 
business. They know as little of what lies behind the 
printed pages as a housemaid may know of the story of 
a lump of coal when she lays the fire. So I shall try to 
sketch m outline, and omitting many details, the sort of 
thing that goes on in and about a big newspaper office 
six days and six nights a week or, in countries where 
newspapers appear seven days a week, every day of the 

The " day " begins, or should begin, very soon after 
the last edition of a morning newspaper has kh gone to 
press/' and the " night editor " and the men on late duty 
in the composing and machine rooms have ceased their 
labours. By 7 a.m. an experienced newspaper man with 
a critical eye should have been reading and comparing 
the contents of the other papers which either compete 
with his own or appeal to a different public. He should 
note at what points and in what particulars other news- 
papers " covered " yesterday's events better or less well 
than his own paper. Some may have "missed" the 
chief news altogether. Others may hSve put it hurriedly 
into the space reserved for " late news," sometimes 
called the " stop press." Others again, with smarter 
staffs or more vigorous night-editors, may have pulled to 
pieces the metal type of several pages of what would 
otherwise have been the last edition, and have put this 



newest news in a prominent place with appropriate head- 
lines and an explanatory introduction. It is this kind of 
keenness on the part of a newspaper staff that attracts 
fresh subscribers. Life goes to life. 

When the expert critic has finished his early task he 
will make his report so that the various heads of editorial 
departments may have their attention drawn to the 
achievements or the shortcomings of their paper. One 
of the first to be informed should be the day kfc news 
editor/' who has at his command a staff of reporters and 
special writers and larger staff correspondents in provin- 
cial and foreign centres. He is the pivot of their 
activities. He has before him a list of the public arrange- 
ments and engagements for the day, and instructs his 
staff either to report upon them individually or, if they 
be of minor importance, to let the news agencies " cover " 
them. And inasmuch as the object of a news editor is 
to make the next day's paper as " distinctive " as 
possible, he will vary his instructions according to the 
kind of paper which he believes the editor would wish 
to produce and its readers will appreciate. Much of 
this work can be foreseen and planned in advance. It is 
when other morning newspapers, or early matter sup- 
plied by news agencies, or telegrams from distant 
quarters of the globe bring unexpected tidings, that a 
news editor has swiftly to use telephone and cable to 
make sure that competent correspondents, writers or 
experts will " cover " the subject adequately and in good 
time for next day's issue. 

In the old days, when "news editors" were unknown, 
this work of anticipation and co-ordination was 
neglected. The " man on the spot " was trusted to use 
his own judgment and to send in whatever he might 
think of sufficient interest. There were exceptions m the 
cases of important political speeches or gatherings m 
provincial cities. Staffs of expert shorthand writers 
might then be sent to take down, transcribe and tele- 


graph verbatim reports of what a Prime Minister or other 
leading public man had said. Nowadays these events 
are usually " covered " by news agencies ; and individual 
newspapers have adopted the American principle of 
" more messages out than in," that is to say, fewer 
spontaneous telegrams than instructions to provincial 
and foreign representatives that their papers are or are 
not interested in this or that occurrence in their particular 
neighbourhoods, so that local correspondents may not 
overlook or over-report them. A wise news editor will, 
however, still leave considerable discretion to the " men 
on the spot," whose judgment may be sounder than his 
on the real importance of any given topic. 

While news editors are thus " stirring up " provincial 
and foreign correspondents, the business (or managerial) 
side of newspapers is getting bus>. One weighty ques- 
tion has first to be decided the size of to-morrow's 
paper. This is usually a matter of judging how much 
space should be given to advertisements, and how much 
to news. If advertisements are 4k short," i.e., compara- 
tively few, managers are apt to feel that a " big " paper 
would not pay for itself, let alone yield a profit. News- 
papers always print an even number of pages. The 
number may vary from 12 or 14 to 32 or more, but it 
never varies, say, from 15 to 31. This is because every 
page corresponds to a semi-circular metal plate which 
" clothes " half a cylinder on the printing press. Two 
plates, and therefore two pages, are needed to " clothe " 
the whole cylinder. But two extra pages of a paper with 
a large circulation may mean the consumption of many 
tons of additional *' newsprint." So a balance has to 
be struck between the number of pages which advertise- 
ments " justify " and the number which the editorial 
staff might wish to fill. An experienced eye can often 
see at a glance what papers are making a profit on a 
day's issue and what papers are making a loss for there 
often comes a point at which a loss has to be faced in 


order that a paper may not be behind its rivals in the 
provision and the presentation of news. 

When the decision has been taken, the day staffs in 
the composing and machine rooms prepare for the 
night's work. The heavy rolls of " newsprint " are 
attached to the printing presses, the advertisements 
which have come in are classified and set up in appro- 
priate type different type, as a rule, from the type used 
for editorial matter supplies of ink are got ready and, 
if an especially large edition is to be printed, arrange- 
ments for packing and distribution are extended. 

Such calculations and preparatory work may be only 
provisional. As the day weaps on, advertisements may 
wu go up " by several columns or even pages, and thus 
necessitate not only a bigger paper but "justify" the 
allotment of more space to the editorial side. These 
changes, in their turn, mean more " newsprint/' more 
ink, more type-sell ing, more metal plates for the 
cylinders, and more distubutmg vans or lorries. Both 
the managerial and mechanical staffs need to be clastic 
in mind and hand. 

A generation ago the chief members of the " night '" 
editorial staff rarely came to their offices before the lale 
afternoon. They expected to be at work with bucf 
intervals for meals or refreshment until the early hours 
of the following morning. Nowadays the necessity of 
printing editions foi the provinces well before midnight 
or, in some cases, as early as 9 or 10 p m , obliges editors 
and their staffs to begin work in the forenoon. What 
is this work ? 

Its variety is infinite A newspaper office is a 
nncrocosm of the nation and, indeed, of the world. It 
is at once a monarchy and a republic, a hierarchy and a 
democracy, a place for team work and a field for indivi- 
dual effort. Side by side, many departments have their 
own special provinces which not infrequently overlap. 
Politics, economics, literature, art, music, the drama, 

H 2 


trade, finance, agriculture, shipping, sport, home affairs, 
foreign affairs, ecclesiastical affairs, science, engineering, 
astronomy and meteorology have all to be provided 
for, to say nothing of illustrations, broadcasting pro- 
grammes and games. The monarch or, at least, the 
prime minister, is the editor. A foreign editor and a 
number of assistant editors are his colleagues and 
advisers. Other colleagues are the home and foreign 
news editors, the chief sub-editors, the City editor and 
the heads of various departments. Lesser folk, albeit 
with a hierarchy of their own, are the sub-editors, home 
and foreign, and the reporters. Special places are held 
by the Parliamentary reporting staffs, the lobby corre- 
spondents and expert writers on innumerable subjects. 
In some offices the writers of leading articles are in a 
class by themselves, with direct access to the editor and 
his assistants. They are often men whose opinions all 
their colleagues value. 

As connecting links between the departments a staff 
of messengers hurry to and fro, distributing " copy " 
supplied by the news agencies through tape machines 
or carrying proofs and manuscripts. The chief 
messenger is a very important person. 

" Secretaries " were almost unknown to the older 
generation of journalists. Only the editor had a 
" secretary," usually a younger man of University 
education trained to write letters or notes in the editor's 
name with tact and distinction. But the speed of modern 
journalism and the advent of typewriters have made a 
large secretarial staff indispensable to every newspaper. 
So newspaper offices are now graced by dozens of young 
women and youths without whose assistance the work of 
a modern newspaper could hardly be done in time. 
Compositors or type-setters who once took pride in their 
ability to read swiftly almost any handwriting are now so 
accustomed to " set " from typescript only that a manu- 
script in illegible handwriting provokes them to revolt. 


The substitution of typewriters for pens has not added 
to the tranquillity of newspaper offices, however greatly 
it may have increased their efficiency. In addition to the 
secretarial staff, many reporters and editorial writers 
now use machines m the place of pens sometimes 
without enhancing the legibility of the " copy " they 
produce, as two instances within my experience will 
show. One was that of a famous essayist who had long 
contributed " light leaders " to a great London journal. 
His hand-writing looked elegant, but on closer examina- 
tion turned out to be almost unreadable. The other 
instance was provided by a distinguished writer whose 
articles still enlighten hundreds of thousands of readers 
daily. His handwriting also looked good and was 
damnable. Against both of them the printers ended by 
rebelling. These two wielders of the pen were therefore 
adjured to get typewriters and to produce typescript. 
By some congenital intricacy of mental and muscular 
co-ordination, or by some miracle of mechanical in- 
capacity, each of them contrived so to misuse their type- 
writers that their typescripts were even less legible than 
their manuscripts had been. They ran their words 
together, wrote capital letters below the line or in the 
middle of the next line, and super-imposed three or four 
letters one upon the other while their punctuation 
became as the abomination of desolation, standing 
where it ought not. More time was lost by editors, 
assistant editors and sub-editors in transforming their 
cryptograms into intelligible prose than would have been 
needed by a really expert compositor of the old school to 
make out their written hieroglyphics. 

Things like these bring mingled joy and exasperation 
to newspaper offices; joy to those who do not suffer 
from them, exasperation to those who do. More joy, 
more anger, some gratitude and much contempt are 
likewise engendered by would-be contributors from 
among the public and by the writers of " letters to the 


editor." The editor's " post bag " is a very weighty 
element in the daily work of a newspaper office. Apart 
from correspondence personal to him which may be 
heavy and range from the trivial to the highly important 
there are usually scores, and sometimes hundreds, of 
letters intended for publication. These have to be gone 
through by private secretaries or assistant editors in the 
first instance, classified and, according to their subjects, 
sent round to the heads of the various editorial depart- 
ments for comment or suggestion. Thus letters on 
finance may go to the " City " office, letters on foreign 
affairs to the Foreign Department, letters on policy to 
the editor himself, letters on scientific subjects, music, 
literary topics, the weather and what-not to the members 
of the staff who specialise m these things. Then, in the 
course of the day or night, they find their way back, with 
recommendations and suggestions, to the editor or his 
chief assistant, who will either decline them or pass them 
to the printer. Some, which there is no space to print 
in full, may have their chief " points " extracted and 
printed. Others which cannot be kt cut " in this way may 
be returned for abbreviation to their senders. A pro- 
portion, which is often large, may be so libellous or 
abusive as- to merit only % * the spike " or the more 
ignommious oblivion of the waste-paper basket. But it 
is an absolute rule that no letter to the editor shall be 
" edited " or altered in such a way as to change its 
writer's actual words An editor is free to publish or 
not to publish He is not free to twist or to transform 
a correspondent's meaning. 

In every newspaper " letters to the editor " have, 
therefore, to be carefully handled. Though an editor 
is not responsible for the opinions which his corre- 
spondents may express he is responsible for conveying, 
or refusing to convey, them to the public And when 
such opinions conflict with or contradict the policy of 
his paper, nice discrimination is required between what 


it is expedient and what it is not expedient to publish. 
As a general rule an editor would rather publish opinions 
with which he disagrees, and express his dissent editori- 
ally, than decline publication if the opinions are at all 
representative of what is being said and thought. This 
he will do not only from a sense of fair play but because 
the correspondence columns of his journal form one of 
its most valuable features valuable m more than one 
sense. " Copy " has to be paid for, and the cost if it 
figures in every newspaper budget. But the ki copy " 
provided by letters to the editor has not to be paid for, 
and its interest to readers is often greater than that of 
special articles or other " features " contributed by paid 

Nor does the value of letters to the editor stop here. 
From the size and quality of his kt post bag " a shrewd 
editor will be able to guess how public opinion is moving 
among his readers. The volume of abuse or of approval, 
criticism or encouragement which he receives daily will 
help him to understand how far the policy of his paper 
irritates or satisfies its section of the public, and whether 
dissatisfaction is due to misunderstanding, prejudice or 
ignorance or to his own errors. If he be a man of self- 
governing mind who has thought out a policy before he 
advocates it, he will not at once trim his sails to catch 
the wind of public favour but will judge by public 
disfavour how serious may be the objections to the 
course he thinks right. No editor is infallible, nor is the 
public or any section of it. An editor's task is to serve 
the public, sometimes by instructing it and leading it 
whither, for lack of the information he possesses it is 
unwilling to go. On the other hand his special and 
confidential information may induce him to overlook 
the broader aspects of a situation which the common 
sense of his readers enables them to judge more soundly. 
The daily work of an editor and of his chief assistants m 
a newspaper office may be more delicate and call for 


nicer judgment than that of a Prime Minister and his 
Cabinet who feel they can rely upon the support of a 
disciplined party majority in the House of Commons. 

While matters of policy and a hundred other less im- 
portant questions are being decided in the higher ranks 
of a newspaper staff, the work of framing and planning 
the next day's paper goes on within the limits suggested 
or laid down by the " business side/' Some modern 
newspapers have followed the American practice of 
^pointing a " managing editor " who, under the pro- 
prietor, is supreme over managerial and editorial pro- 
blems; but in older newspapers the final decision rests 
with the editor alone. If he insists that the projected 
size of next day's paper is insufficient for the news of the 
day he can, after consulting the manager, insist that the 
paper be enlarged. As a rule the general planning of 
next day's paper is done at an " editorial conference " 
between the editor, the manager, the news editor and 
the heads of departments in the afternoon. This 
" editorial conference " should be, and sometimes is, 
the mainstay of editorship. A good editor will find in it 
a means of keeping in touch with and of inspiring his 
principal colleagues. A rough table of contents will 
have been prepared for him, together with summaries 
of the principal home and foreign news. An inefficient 
or a dictatorial editor will deal with these matters per- 
functorily, merely allotting the amount of space to be 
allowed to this or that subject, and leaving his colleagues 
in ignorance of the reasons for his policy. An efficient 
editor, on the other hand, who knows how greatly his 
own efficiency must depend upon the intelligent goodwill 
of his staff, will lay before his colleagues his own informa- 
tion, discuss policy with them, welcome their criticisms 
and seek to enlist their enthusiasm in support of an 
agreed course. Thus, instead of allowing his staff to 
work more or less blindly, each department looking after 


its own interests without much care for the whole, he will 
find all his departments working for the same end and 
lending to the paper a coherence and a " drive " that he 
could not have given it by himself. The quality of an 
editorial conference may make all the difference between 
a paper that tingles with life and a paper that is dull or 

The editorial conference over, the heads of depart- 
ments return to their several rooms, some to handle early 
" copy " that has begun to come in from reporters or 
news agencies, others to deal with correspondence or to 
receive callers, and others to revise proofs of such matter 
as has already been set up in type The editor himself 
may have appointments to keep with public men or with 
visitors who may range from Ministers of the Crown to 
Ambassadors or explorers and to discuss with the 
writers of leading articles how the outstanding topics of 
the day should be treated. On occasion an editor will 
feel that he must write a leading article himself, because 
he alone has all the threads of policy in his hands. More 
often he will have seen in advance what subject will be 
uppermost in the public mind on a given day, and will 
have selected a competent writer to deal with it. No 
editorial function on a great daily paper demands more 
tact than the handling of leader writers. Men who have 
something to say, and are able to say it pithily and well, 
usually have their own temperaments and ideas. They 
are artists of a special kind. The best of them are un- 
willing to write against their own views and convictions, 
and are filled with resentment when they merely receive 
verbal or written instructions to say this or that. On the 
other hand they welcome consultation with their editor 
if he takes them into his confidence and respects their 
opinions. According to the way they are treated they 
may turn out perfunctory platitudes or powerful and con- 
vincing presentations of sound ideas. The relationship 
of an editor to his writing staff is not unlike that of a 


conductor to an orchestra, and no editor should suppose 
that the individual members of his orchestra will play 
with dash and zest any music he may put before them. 
His reward will come when, at the end of a night's work, 
or on the morrow, he feels that his orchestra has played 
as one man, con brio, 

All this takes time, and time is as precious in a news- 
paper office as in a well-managed railway system. No 
less precious is space, not merely the total space of which 
an editorial staff may dispose on a given night but the 
use that is made of it. Here the assistant editors, chief 
sub-editors and sub-editors have a decisive part to play. 
Careless sub-editing and the choice of clumsy headlines 
may waste space which, if properly economised, would 
allow half a column more matter to be got into a page. 
A besetting sin of many sub-editors is to write headlines 
which " turn " unnecessarily, that is, take up two lines 
of space m conspicuous type where one line, carefully 
worded, would have been better. In justice to sub- 
editors, it should be said that their work is often done at 
high pressure and that they get small thanks for it. 
They have to reduce to manageable compass the masses 
of tk copy " that pour in upon their desks hour after 
hour. They have to present it in readable form to the 
public and so to arrange it that compositors can 4t set " 
it without loss of time. Somehow or other this is done. 
An uninitiated visitor to a newspaper office, glancing at 
the room of a chief sub-editor might see only a busy man 
at a desk with a dozen or more colleagues around him. 
The visitor would not perceive that the busy man was 
sorting out and distributing various sorts of " copy " to 
colleagues especially skilled in handling it, or that 
precious time would be lost if, for instance, a sub-editor 
of parliamentary reports did not know exactly who's who 
in politics, or if a " social " sub-editor had not the rank 
and proper style of people in " Society " at his fingers 
ends, or if an " ecclesiastical " sub-editor were not at 


home in the niceties of the religious world. The sub- 
editor whose task it may be to compress long-winded 
political speeches must be expert in winnowing the wheat 
(if any) from the chaff without distorting the speaker's 
meaning. And a scientific sub-editor needs to be fami- 
liar with all the jargon and sesquipedal terminology in 
which scientists indulge. 

Among the members of a newspaper staff 1 am inclined 
to give first place to the sub-editors as a body. Without 
their devotion and goodwill an editor may be impotent. 
They can make or mar his paper. They arc the infantry 
who win newspaper battles. Their names rarely reach 
the public, except in brief obituary notices, but in more 
ways than one they can justly say of themselves that 
without their labours ki the Press " could not exist. 
When a sub-editonal staff are really interested in the 
policy of their paper, or are keen to make the paper 
kt tell " in other respects, they can do more for it than an 
editor and all his assistants put together And when, on 
the other hand, sub-editors are treated as the journeymen 
of newspaperdom, as mere hewers of wood and drawers 
of water who have no part nor lot m the higher realms of 
" policy," they can, by apathy or subtle obstruction, 
put sand in the wheels of the most perfect technical 

Besides, sub-editors are often splendid craftsmen. It 
is they, as a rule, who suggest to the night news editor 
or the tfc maker-up " what items of news are worthy of a 
" top," that is to say, of being placed at the top of a 
column with two, three or more headlines. It is they 
who have to cope with emergencies when an unexpected 
event, or the death of some eminent person, demands 
space on pages already overcrowded. If a depaUed 
worthy, whose decease is suddenly announced at a late 
hour, was really eminent or distinguished, the story of 
his life will have been written beforehand and stored in 
the office " graveyard." Thence it is fetched, brought 


up to date and inserted in an appropriate page, at the 
cost of other matter already set up and ready for the 
printer. But when there is no obituary notice in stock 
the assistant editor or sub-editor in charge of the 
" graveyard " may be at his wit's end. Everybody who 
knows or can find out anything about the late lamented 
is then laid under contribution until a review of his or 
her life is pieced together, set up, revised and printed. 

As the hands of the clock advance towards the fateful 
hour when the paper must go to press, the strain 
increases. 4< Copy " flows out from the sub-editors to 
the composing room in shorter and shorter snippets. 
Each snippet bears a number and what is called a " catch 
line," so that the printers and the 4t maker-up," may 
know the sequence in which it should be placed. These 
snippets may be distributed among a number of com- 
positors, each of whom will set up in a few minutes one 
or two inches of tv metal " from which rough proofs will 
be pulled and passed at once to the " readers." The 
task of " readers " is one of the least enviable in a 
newspaper office. It is to scan the rough proofs, to cor- 
rect errors in them, to see that they correspond to 
" copy," that they " read on " in the right order, and to 
mark with a query any spelling, punctuation or passage 
which may seem not to make sense or to be obviously 
out of place. 

" Readers " must therefore be men of considerable 
education and with a wide range of knowledge. Accord- 
ing to a rule which is almost invariable they are not 
allowed to comment upon or to " query " the subject 
of an article or otherwise to express any opinion upon 
the merits of the matter they correct. So strict is this 
rule in most newspaper offices that a " reader " who goes 
beyond his last may land himself in serious trouble. In 
general the rule is sound though it can be too rigorously 
observed and applied. While confusion or chaos might 

IIN A iNJYV2>rArjtiK 
ensue if a dozen or more " readers " were free to put 
their spoke in the editorial wheel and to criticise or to 
suggest improvements in articles or reports, there are 
cases in which an intelligent " reader " may, by ignoring 
the rule, render real service to his editor. I can 
remember at least one instance in which this happened. 
It had a pathetic as well as a comic side. A bold 
" reader " sent up to his editor a query whether one part 
of a passage that had been quoted in a leading article 
really bore upon the subject of the article at all. Seeing 
that the query was justified the editor deleted the super- 
fluous passage and, when the paper had gone to press, 
sent the chief messenger to fetch the " reader." By 
some magic he had vanished. So the chief messenger 
was instructed to find him next night and bring him to 
the editor's room. Next night the chief messenger re- 
ported that no trace of him could be found. tk I am 
sorry," said the editor, * k I wanted to thank him." In 
the twinkling of an eye the " reader " was produced from 
behind the door of the composing room, saying apolo- 
getically that he " did not mean any harm." He had 
feared reprimand or dismissal. 

Now the hour of going to press is at hand. The head 
printer in charge has made all his periodical reports 
to the editor upon " the state of the paper." The early 
pages have long since " gone away " to the stereotypers. 
The later pages are " made up " and are being screwed 
into their " chases," with headlines of proper width and 
in type of appropriate sizes. The last " galley proofs " 
of the latest pages are coming up in rapid succession. 
Warning has been given to the various departments that 
the composing room can " take no more copy for 
this edition." Still, parliamentary reports, telegrams 
or telephone messages from abroad, and many interest- 
ing odds and ends, are flowing in and, if at all possible, 
must be got into the paper somehow. So the " maker- 


up," often an assistant-editor who decides what matter 
shall be placed upon what pages, has quickly to decide 
how to act, what " metal " shall be cut down and how 
much of the new matter shall be set up and put in. The 
nice adjustments he has previously made are upset. 
The whole balance of the paper may be endangered. 
" Metal " is not elastic save in so far as it may have 
been t4 leaded out " so as to give greater prominence to 
the news or views it represents and the steel chases 
which surround the metal type of a page are more ricid 

Then eloquent paragraphs may vanish from speeches, 
shorter letters to the editor may have to replace longer 
letters, or even a leading article may have to be 
k " dropped." The printers hustle and bustle to make 
these changes neatly and in time. Their dexterity mu^t 
be seen to be believed. When they are almost reidy, 
and but a few minutes remain before the last steel chases 
enclosing the metal type and now called *' formes " 
remain to be pushed along the " stone," or steel table 
that leads to the stereotyping room, news of some world- 
shaking occurrence may come in, and the work of 
adjustment has to be done over again The " maker- 
up " and the night news editor rush to and for, or tele- 
phone to the sub-editors to hurry up. The sub-editors 
need no urging. By dint of vigorous skill the seemingly 
impossible is achieved, everything is ready at last when 
the editor decides that some allusion to the great cvenr 
must be made in a " leader." There may be no time or 
space even for a shoit " leader " on the subject. Some- 
thing IMS to "come out of" a leader already written 
and composed, so as to make room for something to 
44 go in." Out k " it " comes and in " it " goes, literally 
by the sweat of somebody's brow. Then the metal once 
more fits the chase, the tc forme " is screwed up, locked 
and pushed away to the stercotypers. In a few minutes 
a " matrix " of it is made, a semi-circular sleribplate 


cast from the " matrix," cooled, trimmed, shaved, passed 
down to the press room and fixed on one-half of a 
waiting cylinder. A button is pressed, the electric 
current switched on, and the huge printing press begins 
softly to hum until, as it and its fellow gather speed, a dull 
rumble reverberates through the building. 

This is what Kipling called " the loaded hour " of 
" the midnight stress/' Moments of relaxation succeed 
it for the majority of the " night staff." They may 
" light their pipes m the morning calm," discuss the 
paper that has just come off the presses, and suggest 
improvements for the next editions before they tidy up 
and go home. The editorial offices grow strangely quiet. 
The members of the staff on late duty flit like phantoms 
through the empty rooms that have been filled with 
workers for so many hours. But down in the press 
room, the packing room, and in the courtyard, where a 
fleet of motor vans and lorries is waiting, the rush goes 
on. The swiftly revolving presses devour mile after 
mile of newsprint; and quire after quire of the news- 
paper, its pages cut and neatly folded, issue from them. 
The earliest copies, called "vouchers," have been 
scanned by the chief printer and sent to the editor and 
to the chief editorial departments to be examined for 
defects or mistakes that must be put right as soon as the 
first "run" of the machines can be checked. To stop a 
" run " before the number of copies required for a given 
edition are printed is a costly business. It ma> mean 
missing trains or otherwise retarding delivery. Some- 
times, indeed, a defect m a roll of paper will cause it to 
break. Then the whole press room may resemble an 
Arctic blizzard, for the whirling paper is apt to be torn 
into thousands of scraps before the machine can be 
stopped and the break repaired. Such incidents are 
now rarer than they used to be, so precise is the working 
of the giant presses and so even the tension of the paper. 
But when an incident of this kind happens the resource- 


fulness of a printing staff is revealed. No crew of a 
battleship could handle an emergency more smartly 
than do the men who tend the presses. 

If all goes smoothly the quires of printed papers pass 
to the packing room, where expert packers arrange them 
in bundles, securely bound up and addressed, while the 
copies destined for individual postal subscribers are 
wrapped and addressed for delivery to the General Post 
Office. The vans and lorries, each with its load of 
bundles, roar away to the principal railway termini, and 
return for later editions. Next morning, throughout the 
greater part of the country, newspaper readers find 
" their " papers delivered by breakfast time or pick them 
up at railway bookstalls, sometimes to grumble if 
fct their " paper is late or to wonder why " a little more 
care " was not taken with the wording of an article or 
with the presentation of news. 

There is grumbling and grumbling. Sometimes I wish 
the public could know enough of the technique of news- 
paper production to grumble because things that might 
have been done have not been done. Then circulations 
of bad or inefficient newspapers might fall off, and those 
of better newspapers increase. Of what can be done by 
an efficient newspaper two illustrations may be given. 
Late one evening, not very long ago, an important 
Minister made a speech in a northern city upon a matter 
of urgent national importance. I le recognised gratefully 
the support which the Government had received from the 
Leader of the Opposition in the organisation of national 
defence and admitted that both the reasons for the sup- 
port and the conditions attached to it were just and 
sound. It was a speech which revealed a high degree of 
national unity at a critical moment upon a vital issue. 
Had it been properly handled by all the chief national 
newspapers it would have made a salutary impression 
abroad. Owing to the lateness of the hour the reports 


of the speech seem not to have reached London news- 
papers before they had gone to press with their earlier 
kfc country editions." At all events, only two London 
newspapers one an opposition journal of the 
"popular" and the other a ministerial organ of the 
"serious" sort dealt with it adequately. The 
44 popular " newspaper kt splashed " it on the front page ; 
the " serious " newspaper, with a keen editorial staff! 
knocked its earlier editions to pieces and printed the 
salient passages of the speech in bold type on a central 
page with appropriate comment. Another " serious " 
ministerial organ, with a less efficient staff, printed only 
a meagre and misleading summary of the speech in small 
type in an obscure position. If the readers of this 
newspaper had tc grumbled " effectively they might have 
helped to keep that newspaper and its editorial staff up 
to the mark. 

The other illustration is less recent. It passed almost 
unnoted by the readers of the paper in question though 
not by its rivals or its staff. A critical stage had been 
reached in a Pahamentary debate upon a Bill embodying 
an important agreement with a British Dominion. The 
vote for and against the second reading of the Bill was 
soon to be taken, and there was no telling which way it 
would go. One influential morning newspaper was 
fiercely hostile to the agreement, and under its attacks the 
Parliamentary majority were wavering. Another in- 
fluential paper was supporting the agregpeft? ,pn the 
ground that, if ratified, it 
national and imperial interests 
Pressure on space had been 
weeks, and the staff of the 
agreement were as weary 
themselves to be. After anc 
they drew a sigh of relief wl| 
presses could be heard and 

At that moment a news ag 


offensive attempt on the part of a leading personage in 
the Dominion concerned to perturb British feeling and to 
wreck the agreement. Unless something were done at 
once the prospect of Parliamentary ratification would be 
small, for the vote might be taken next evening. So 
the editor to the dismay of the head printer ordered 
the presses to be stopped while the two principal pages 
were "brought back "and got ready to take the news of 
the wrecking attempt and a leading article upon it. This 
decision meant the loss of many thousand copies of the 
paper and the missing of early trains to the Provinces. 

So efficient was that newspaper staff that in less than 
half an hour the presses were running again with an 
edition containing the news, prominently printed, and 
a fresh leading article which placed the wrecker's attempt 
in its true light, and urged Parliament to answer it by 
ratifying the agreement without delay. A few minutes 
later the new leading article was being cabled to all the 
morning papers of the Dominion in question. Next 
evening Parliament ratified the agreement. 

Things of this kind can be done when an editor 
and his staff work as a team for the success of their 
journal and for a policy they approve of. Otherwise 
the best machinery and the highest technical skill may be 
unavailing. But when a day in a newspaper office is like 
a rehearsal of a new symphony by an orchestra well 
conducted and keyed up to concert pitch, it can be a day 
of tingling experience and satisfying achievement, for 
the newspaper that issues from the presses at the end of 
it is a living force in the life of a nation and even of 
the world. The " companions of the Press " who make 
such newspapers can justly feel again in Kipling's 
phrase that they " sit down at the heart of men and 
things " and there abide. 



THROUGHOUT this book I have tried to suggest the ideal 
which journalism should serve and, in the light of it, 
to show whcie the British Piess fails shoiL J know 
well that criticism is easy and achievement hard; and 
I can imagine that some over-worked journalist, acutely 
conscious of the icstnttions and pitfalls which beset 
him, will testily reply. "A truce to your theorising! 
What sort of a paper would you make if you had the 
chance and a free hand ? Suppose you were Thomasson 
with his Tribune, or Alfred Hannsworlh with his budding 
Da^y Mail, or Levy Lawson with his Daily Telegraph 
what, under present conditions, would you do to 
gain freedom for a commercialised Press ? " 

This would be a fair question. To answer it m theory 
would not be difficult. To put the answer successfully 
into practice would be another matter Not all 
journalists have the knack of newspaper-making W T 
Stead, for instance, was a journalist and an editor of 
genius, yet he failed dismally as the founder of a news- 
paper. 1 am not at all sure that 1 have in me the stuff 
of a commercially successful newspaper-maker such as 
were, in their several ways, John Walter JJ of The Times. 
Levy Lawson of the Telegraph, Joseph Pulitzer of the 
New York World, Adolf Ochs of the New York Times, 
and Alfred Harmswoith of the Daily Mail\ or, to take 
present examples, such as arc Lord Beaverbrook of 
the Daily Express and Lord Cainiose of the Daily 
Telegraph and Sunday Times. All these men have 



" made good " with newspapers as business under- 
takings; and some of them were and are real journalists. 
All the same, I am not fully persuaded that outstanding 
commercial success is the best criterion of a good 
newspaper. The Westminster Gazette, for example, 
could never pay its way ; yet what journalist would say 
that it was not an admirable paper. The Manchester 
Guardian, in and by itself, is not believed ever to have 
been a gold mine for its owners ; but 1 know of no better 
newspaper in any country. The ideal would be to hit 
upon the sort of newspaper that should be able to 
make ends meet without conceding anything of its 
journalistic integrity to considerations of money-making. 

Like most journalists who dream dreams I wonder 
sometimes what kind of paper I should try to turn 
out if 1 had, say, a million pounds or more to play 
with, and could either start a paper of my own or take 
over and transform an existing journal. Would it be 
possible, under the present conditions of the " newspaper 
industry," for a paper to rise superior to those 
conditions or to turn them to account in such fashion 
as to restore and to safeguard the freedom of the Press ? 
It ought to be possible, though I am ready to admit 
that the man who should do it might need far higher 
ability than I could command. The need of the 
hour may call forth the man or it may not. During 
the Great War there was urgent need for a military 
commander of outstanding abJUty or genius among 
the Allied armies. If he did, not appear was it or was it 
not because conditions were too complicated for any 
man to master ? 

Early in 1921, a few weeks before the centenary of 
Napoleon's death, I asked Marshal Foch (who knew 
more about Napoleon than any of the other Allied 
Generals) whether he thought that Napoleon would 
have done better than he had done as Commander-in- 
Chief of the Allied and Associated Armies in the closing 


period of the War, or whether modern conditions would 
have made Napoleon look small. Foch answered that 
he had often put this very question to himself when he 
passed before Napoleon's tomb at the Tnvahdes during 
the War, and had come to the conclusion that Napoleon's 
infinite capacity for taking pains would have enabled 
him to master modern war conditions in about six weeks. 
Then, said Foch, " he would have invented some new 
trick, found some new dodge, and would have knocked 
the astonished enemy head over heels/' 

In much the same way, I think, a newspaper-maker 
of genius would grasp and utilise the complicated 
conditions of modern newspaper-making and would 
discomfit his industry-bound rivals before they could 
guess how he had done it. His success would depend 
upon his power to read the minds of the rising genera- 
tion, to express their own thoughts for them, and to 
lead them whither they would fain go if they only 
knew the way. 

Not long ago the writer of a letter to the Manchester 
Guardian lamented that nowadays people feel the lack 
of an ideal to live for or, if need be, to die for. Their 
lives, he argued, lack spiritual quality. I think this 
lament well-founded. People are bewildered and 
disheartened. They, especially the young, throw them- 
selves into every kind of sport and amusement, the 
riskier the better. Many of them try to keep themselves 
" fit," though few of them could answer the artist's 
question to a sturdy young fellow who had wondered 
how the artist could get on without exercise, and had 
said: " It takes me all my time to keep fit." " Fit for 
what ? " enquired the artist. Many become " air- 
minded," heedless of crashes, or drive k ' sports cars " 
at break-neck speed. Their elders dance " hot jazz " 
or seek mental exercise m doing " cross-word puzzles." 
In regard to public affairs they have no reasoned stand- 
point; and in politics, which ought to mean care for 


public affairs, they have no well-thought-out creed. 
Nationalism, as such, they do not find wholly satisfying. 
Communism attracts comparatively few, while the appeal 
of its milder version, Socialism, has lost glamour. 
Still less does Nazism or Fascism strike them as a 
panacea. Of liberal principles they know too little to 
find them a source of inspiration though unconsciously 
most of them are liberal m tendency. While pacifism 
is alien to their temperaments, the senselessness of war 
estranges them. They seek something bigger than 
themselves to which they can devote themselves and 
seek it in vain. Literature and the pulpit, politicians 
and Parliament, philosophers and scientists offer them 
pebbles in place of bread, and the growing mechanisation 
of life curtails their opportunities for creative activity. 

The Press reflects all this disjointed aimlessness, and 
ministers to it without rising above it. Here is a chance 
for a newspaper-maker of vision with an ideal and a 
purpose of his own, both of which he might perhaps 
hide in his heart lest they be mocked by fools before 
he could vindicate them. The newspaper I dream of 
would reflect the distractions of modern life no less 
faithfully than existing papers reflect them, but it 
would treat them as distractions, not as the things that 
matter. It would search out the truths behind these 
appearances and proclaim them, sparing no shams, 
respecting no conventions solely because they happened 
to be conventions, giving honour where honour might 
be due, but calling cant and humbug by their names. 

It would be quite fearless. It would not " hedge " 
in its treatment of thorny subjects; and if, as would be 
inevitable, it made mistakes, it would avow them. It 
would accept only such advertisements as it thought 
honest, so that its acceptance of them would be a moral 
guarantee to advertisers and to readers alike. Net sales 
certificates it would steadfastly refuse to publish, and 
it would scorn to canvass for subscribers or to offer 


them free insurance or other benefits. If advertisers 
or their agents should seek to bring it to heel, it would 
publish their names; and it would ruthlessly expose all 
underhand 4k business " practices that came to its 
knowledge. A good part of its capital would be spent 
in winning the confidence of young and eager minds 
who would soon learn to trust its judgment and to heed 
its counsel. From its first " editorial " column to the 
last it would be a militant journal, tied to no " interests," 
careless of hostility, sure that none would be able to 
ignore it. 

My newspaper would, of course, make every effort 
to get the news, and would put its main news on the 
front page where it ought to be. It would not fear 
to print several consecutive columns of one good 
44 story/' It would treat with contempt the time- 
wasting device of sending readers from one page to 
another so as to put the beginning of a different " story " 
at the top of every column. Nor would it cheat its 
readers by superabundant headlines or by vain repeti- 
tions. Good and careful typography can help readers 
to see what is in a paper without defrauding them of 
reading matter. 

My ideal newspaper would give " all the news that's 
fit to print " as vividly as possible, whether the news 
suited its " policy " or not. For its policy would fit 
the facts; it would not suppress or gloss over facts 
to suit " policy." In cases of doubt whether discretion 
might not be the better part of publicity it would give 
publicity the benefit of the doubt. To no Government, 
statesman or person would it lend support for other 
than public reasons, publicly stated. It would be the 
servant of the public, to whose welfare alone it would 
acknowledge allegiance, albeit without the misguided 
sycophancy that flatters an imaginary public and 
assumes that readers " would not stand " plain speaking. 
A faithful servant tells his master the truth. 


My paper would be national, not nationalist. It 
would be liberal, not Liberal. It would strive for Peace, 
without pacifism. It would make clear the vital things 
for which nations and men may fitly fight and fitly die, 
if there be no other way of upholding them. Never 
would it fall into the grievous error of thinking the 
avoidance of conflict the same thing as peace. Against 
the brutal stupidity of the war-method of dealing with 
disputes between nations it would strive with all its 
might ; yet always remembering that the hearts of men 
will never be weaned from war, with its spirit of life- 
risking adventure, unless peace enlist the spirit of 
self-devotion and self-sacrifice in ways worthier than 
those of war. My newspaper would seek to link the 
nations not only against war but in defence of individual 
freedom and of human right, so as to open the way 
for constructive international helpfulness; just as, in 
matters national and social, it would work to harness 
all classes of citizens to the task of constructive 
improvement in the edifice of society. 

Could such a paper as this technically well-made, 
trustworthy, news-giving, hard-hitting, full of vim and 
drive hope to gam a circulation sufficient to command, 
not to solicit, enough advertisement revenue to balance 
its budget? I think it could, provided it were rich 
enough to 4k stand the racket " until it had won its 

One day, perchance, some newspaper-making genius 
with a soul of his own will do something like this. 
Then our advertisement-courting, dividend-seeking, 
circulation-mongers will rub their eyes and wonder 
how it has been done. Till then my ideal newspaper 
may remain in the realm of the ideal, and the British 
Press if, indeed, it escape totalitarian servitude will 
plod along its pedestrian way far below the breezy 
heights whereunto the heart of every true journalist 


SINCE these lines were written in mid-September the 
British Press has with one or two notable exceptions 
made further progress on the road that leads to 
totalitarian servitude. Though we are not yet in a 
state of war, and though every national and humani- 
tarian interest demanded that British newspapers should 
assert their independence by giving full expression to 
the feelings of the public during the international crisis, 
the great majority of our newspapers toned down the 
news and withheld frank comment upon it This they 
did partly in response to suggestions " confidentially " 
made by some clandestine organisation that represents, 
or pretends to represent, the views of official quarters. 
No newspaper, as far as 1 am aware, has denounced 
in public this impertinent meddling with the freedom 
of responsible journalism. 

On the early afternoon of Sunday, October 9, the 
German Dictator, Herr Hitler, fortified by the Munich 
Agreement and by the scrap of paper which he and the 
British Prime Minister had signed publicly told Great 
Britain to mind her own business and not to meddle 
with Germany's business; and, on pam of German 
displeasure, he placed his veto upon the return to office 
of three prominent British public men. 

When this news was broadcast on the evening of 
Sunday, October 9, the whole nation was moved to 
wrath. Of the depth of its wrath hardly a hint was 
given next morning in the leading British newspapers, 
some of which were almost apologetic. Enquiry into 
this humiliating behaviour on the part of our " free 
Press" elicited the information that certain large 



advertising agents had warned journals for which they 
provide much revenue that advertisements would be 
withheld from them should they " play up " the 
international crisis and cause an alarm which was 
*" bad for trade." None of the newspapers thus warned 
dared to publish the names of these advertisement 
agents or to hold them up to public contempt. And 
this at a moment when it is of the utmost national 
importance to unite the country in defence of its 
freedom and, maybe, of its independent existence ! 

Never since the distant days of Ethelred the Unready, 
and the later days of Charles II, have more humiliating 
pages of British history been written than those which 
bear the record of the past few weeks. Of Ethelred 
the Unready and the period of Danegeld the Anglo- 
Saxon Chronicle said : " All these calamities fell upon 
us because of evil counsel, because tribute was not 
offered to them (the Danes) at the right time nor yet 
were they resisted; but when they had done the most 
evil, then was peace made with them." 

Of evil counsel there has been no lack during recent 
years. " Leading " organs of the British Press have 
offered it in plenty. It would remain only for them 
to accept with dutiful submissiveness the claim which 
Herr Hitler has already put forward, and may soon 
renew, that unless the British Government wishes to 
incur German hostility it must so control British 
newspapers as to prevent them f-om taking exception 
to anything Herr Hitler may say or do. 

Fortunately, there are signs that a spirit of revolt 
against this foreign dictation is stirring, albeit obscurely 
as yet, in one at least of our " leading journals." May 
this spirit spread until the Press begins once again 
truly to represent the mind of the people, and until 
it finds courage to serve neither the timidity nor the 
dictatorial itch of Governments but the public to whom 
alone it owes allegiance. W. S. 



FICTION orange 


" Bartimcus " A Tall Ship 

Arnold Bennett Grand Babylon Hotel 

Algernon Blackwood The Centaur 

Phyllis Bottomc Private Worlds 

Marjone Bowen The Glen O'Weeping 

Ernest Bramah Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat 
The Wallet of Kai Lung 
Kai Lung's Golden Hours 
Ann Bridge Peking Picnic 

Louis Bromfield 

The Strange Case of Miss Annie Sprang 
D K Broscer Sir /iumbras at the Ford 
Donn Byrne Hangman's House 

J L Campbell The Miracle of Peille 

G K Chesterton 

The Man Who Was Thursday 

Susan Ertz Madame Claire 
Now East, Now West 

William Faulkrer Soldiers' Pay 

*^B M Forster A Passage to India 

Leon hard Frank Carl and Anna 

Crosbie Garstm The Owls' House 

Stella Gibbons Cold Comfort Farm 

John Hampson 

Saturday Night at the Greyhound 
Ian Hay A Safety Match 

Robert Michens (2 vols ) Paradme Case 
James Hilton Down of Reckoning 

Constance Holme ihe Lonely Plough 

Claude Houghton Chaos rs Corre Again 
Am Jonathan Scrivener 

Aldous Huxley Crome Yellow 

W W Jacobs Deep Waters 

M R James Ghost Stories of an Antiquary 
Sinclair Lcvis Mantrap 

Rose Macaulay Crewe Tiain 

Dangerous Ages 

Denis Mackail Grsertery Street 

hthtl Mann in Children of the Earth 

Ragged Banners 

R H Mottram The Spanish Farm 

Bcverley Nichols Self 

Liam O'Flaherty The Informer 

D Kilham Roberts (editor) 

Penguin Parade ( I ) 
Penguin Parade (2) 
Pengum Parade (3) 
Penguin Parade (4) 

E Arnot Robertson Four Frightened Peopl 
V Sackville-West The Edword;ans 

Ramon Sender Ssven Red Sundays 

Graham Seton The W Plan 

Beatrice Kean Seymour Three Wives 

Youth Rides Out 

Edward Shanks (2 vols ) Queer Street 

Ignazio Silone Fontomcro 

Osbert Sitwell Before the Bombardment 
Somerville and Ross 

Some Experience of an Irish R M, 
Alan Steele (editor) 

Selected Modern Short Stories (I ) 

Se/ec'cd Modern Short Stones (2) 

Ralph Straus Unseemly Adventute 

Tchehov Tales from Tchehcv 

Angela Thirkei! Wi/d Strowben les 

Edward Thompson An Indian Cay 

Ben Travers A Cud oo in the /V'3it 

Hugh Walpole Mi Pernn and Mr Trctll 

Sylvia Townsend Warner Lo//y Wi//o.ves 

Evelyn Waugh Black Mischief 

Decline and fa!! 

Vi/e Bod^s 

Edith Wharton Ethan Frome 

Henry Williamson Tarka the Oite' 

P G vVodehousc My Man Jew? s 

E H Young William 

Francis Brett Young The Black Diamond 
The Credent Moor' 


FICTION green covers 

Anthony Arm^t, ong Ten Minute Alibi 

H C Bailey Mr Fortune, Please 

L" C Benticy Trent's Last Case 

Anthony Berkeley Thj Piccadilly Murder 


Alice Campbell Spider Web 

John Dickson Carr It Walks by Night 

The Waxworks Murder 

Agatha Christie The Murder on the Links 

The Mysterious Affair at Styles 

G D H and Margaret Cole 

Murder at Crome House 
J, J Connington The Dangerfteld Talisman 
Death at Swaythling Court 
A. Conan Doyle 

The Hound of the Boskerv//es 

John Ferguson The Man m the Dark 

Richard Keverne The Havering Plot 

The Man in the Red Hat 

The Sanfield Scandal 

C Daly King 06e/sts at So 

Philip Macdonald The Rasp 

Ngaro Marsh Enter o Murderer 

A A. Milne The Red House Mystery 

John Rhode The House on Tollard Ridge 
The Murders in Praed Street 
Sax Rohmer The Mystery of Dr Fu-Manchu 
Dorothy L Says 

The Documents in the Case 
W Stanley Sykes The Missing Moneylender 
Edgar Wallace The Four Just Men 

H G. Wells The Invisible Man 

ADVENTURE cense covers 

J, Johnston Abraham The Surgeon's Log 
Edmund Blunden Undertones of War 

f. S Chapman Wotkms' Lost Expedition 
Apsley Cherry-Garrard 

(2 YO/S.) The Worst journey in the World 
Alexandra David-Neel 

W'th Mystics and Magicians in Tibet 
Anthony Fokker Flying Dutchman 

Alfred Aloysius Horn Troder Horn 

Anne Morrow Lindbergh 

North to the Onent 
C, A. W. Monckton 

(2 vo/s,) Some Experiences of a New 

Guinea Resident Magistrate 
J. M Scott The Land That God Gave Caw 
Captain von Rintelen The Dark Invader 
Nora Wain House of x>/e 

MEMOIRS dark 6/ue covers 

\H" C Armstrong 

* Grey Wolf (Mustafa Kemal) 

Lord of Arabia (Ibn Saud) 

Jftargot Asquith (2 vo/s ) Autobiography 

E F Benson As We Were 

L, E O Charlton " Charlton " 

Pamela Frankau Find Four People 

>Q. H Liddel! Hart (2 vols ) Foch 

yBthel Mannin Confessions and Impressions 

'x Andre Maurois Ariel 

* VOisroe/i 

3^everley Nichols Twenty-Five 

Maurice O'Sullivan 

Twenty Veers A-Grow/ng 


yellow covers 

Earl Baldwin > On England 

Francis and Vera Meynell (editors) 

(2 vofs ) The Week-end Book 
Alexander Woollcott Wh//e Rome Burns 

DRAMA red covers 

Dr G. B Harrison , these plays, each in 
a separate volume with special Notes and 
Introductions, are available so far 

Twelfth N/ght Henry the fifth 

Ham/ei As You Like It 
King Lear A Midsummer Night's Dream 

The Tempest The Merchant of Venice 

Richard II Romeo and Juliet 

Julius Caesar Henry IV (part I ) 

Macbeth Henry IV (part 2) 

Othe//o Much Ado About Nothing 

The Sonnets Anthony and Cleopatra 

Alfred Sutro, A. P Herbert, Clifford Bax, 
Stanley Houghton, W W. Jacobs, J. A. 
Ferguson and Oliphant Down. 



Art Director Robert Gibbmgs , 
Introductions by G B Harrison 

Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice 

(illustrated by Helen Bin/on) 
Robert Browning 

Selected Poems (lam Macnab) 
Daniel Defoe 

(2 vols ) Robinson Crusoe (J R Biggs) 
Richard Jeffenes 

The Story of My Heart (Gertrude Hermes) 
Herman Melville Typee (Robert Gibbings) 
Edgar Allan Poe 

Some Tales of Mystery and Imagination 
(Douglas Percy Bliss) 
Laurence Sterne 

A Sentimental Journey (Gwen Raverat) 
Jonathan Swift 

Gu//iver's Travels (Theodore Naish) 
David Thoreau Walden (Ethelbert White) 


Norman Angell The Great Illusion Now 
The Duchess of Atholl Searchlight on Spam 
Phyllis Bottome The Mortal Storm 

Charlton, Garratt and Fletcher 

The Air Defence of Britain 
S Grant Duff Europe and the Czechs 

Louis Goldmg The Jewish Problem 

G T Garratt Mussolini's Roman Empire 
Konrad Heiden One Man Against Europe 
W M Macmillan 

Warning from the West Indies 
Mass Observation England 

Edgar Mowrer 

Germany Puts the C/ock Back 
The Dragon Awakes 

J M D Pringle China Struggles for Unity 
Wickham Steed The press 

Genevleve Tabouis Blackmail or War 


light blue covers 

F L Allen #<2 "' Bell 


G D H Cole Practical Economics 

Socialism in Evolution 
G Crowther 

-X-(2 vols ) An Outline of the Universe 
Dobree and Manwarmg 

The Floating Republic 
J H Fabre-K-Socioi Life in the Insect World 
Sjfgmund Freud Totem and Taboo 

^ VPsychopotho/ogy of Everyday Life 

Fry Vision and Design 

J B S Haldane The Inequality of Man 
Elie Halevy (3 vols ) 

A History of the English People in 1815 
G B Harrison (editor) 

A Book of English Poetry 
Julian Huxley Essays in Popular Science 
^tr James Jeans #The Mysterious Universe 
R S Lambert (editor) *Art in England 
!^ J Laski Liberty in the Modern Stole 
H J and Hugh Massmgham (editors) 

(2 vols ) The Great Victorians 
W J Perry The Growth of Civilisation 
Eileen Power ^Medieval Peop'e 

D K Roberts (editor) 

(2 vols ) The Century's Poetry 
Bernard Shaw 

'* (2 vols ) The Intelligent Woman's Guide 
Olaf Stapledon Last and First Men 

J W N Sullivan Limitations of Science 
tft H Tawney 

Re/gion and the Rise of Capita/ism 
"Nfteatnce Webb 
^ (2 vols ) My Apprent.ceship 

G Wells 

A Short History of the World 
N Whitehead 

Science and the Modern World 
Wonard Woolf After the De/uge 

J/'trginia Woolf The Common Reader 

Sir Leonard Wootley *Ur of the Chaldees 
~ mg Up the Pest 


Arnold Bennett 
Arnold Hkll 
Robert G, 

l'"O- ^ 

*" *' 

' * W/IC/M 


A is not roc 

I 1